Inaugural Episode of Webinar Series Looks at IIHS’ Study of Issues Reported with ADAS Repairs

Inaugural Episode of Webinar Series Looks at IIHS’ Study of Issues Reported with ADAS Repairs

AirPro Diagnostics’ new webinar series, TechTalk 360, hosted its first-ever episode May 17, “Consumer Experiences with Crash Avoidance Feature Repairs,” presented by David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.)

A full replay of the presentation is available on AirPro Diagnostics’ YouTube channel.

The webinars, co-hosted by Jordan Hendler and George Avery, will be presented every other month.

During the roughly one-hour webinar, Zuby discussed IIHS’ recent report on its survey of owners of vehicles with repaired crash avoidance features, also known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS.)

Zuby said U.S. roadway deaths hit a low of about 32,000 in 2011, but since then, they have been steadily rising---increasing 32% over the next decade to about 43,000 deaths in 2021, the most recent year of data available.

The popularity of ADAS features is also increasing, Zuby said. Nearly half of the entire car parc on U.S. roads has a rearview camera at this point, while other features, like active lane centering, are still only available on a few new models.

“These features are important because [data] shows they are helping drivers avoid crashes,” Zuby said. “They work, so we want to make sure when they’re involved in a crash, they go back on the road working properly.”

However, the features also drive up the cost of repairs, requiring more labor for recalibrating and more expensive replacement parts.

“Mistakes in repairs are leading to a decrease in effectiveness,” Zuby said.

IIHS surveyed 500 people who owned vehicles, mostly from model years 2015-2021, with at least one repaired ADAS feature; 85% were the vehicle’s original owner. Most sought a repair of the feature due to a recall or service bulletin from the automaker, but one in five owners did so because the vehicle had collision damage. The least common reason to seek a repair was because the car displayed an error code.

Of the respondents, about two-thirds took their vehicle to a dealership service center. The rest either went to an independent repair shop or didn’t know.

Zuby said a majority of the respondents said the features were recalibrated as part of the repair, which he said is good news.

“We have heard a lot of windshield repairs and others aren’t getting the recalibrations required,” Zuby said. “So at least from this sample of owners’ perspectives, [recalibration] is by and large taking place.”

Significantly more respondents reported problems with the feature after it was repaired by an independent shop compared to a dealership service center. “That speaks to the lack of availability of repair information to independent repairers, which Right to Repair legislation would make more widely available,” Zuby said.

Post-repair issues were also more likely if the vehicle went to the shop for collision damage or a windshield replacement, as compared to a recall or service bulletin.

“That reflects that crash repairs have gotten complicated,” Zuby said. “The info needed to get it done is not fully available to all repairers yet.”

Zuby said those results surprised IIHS researchers.

“It speaks to fact the calibrations are complicated, and even when they’re being carried out, they’re not being done right,” he said. “Calibration instructions are often not clear, and they can change year to year, model to model within the same OE.

“It’s a cause for concern that the industry needs to pay more attention to making sure information about calibrations is not only clear, but also followed,” Zuby added.

Respondents also reported some features had to be repaired more than once---about a third had more than one repair, and about a third later needed a repair for a separate problem. But the repairs generally improved the feature’s performance, the survey showed.

Since most of the vehicles owned by survey respondents were newer, they were covered by insurance or a warranty, and respondents were largely satisfied with how much they had to pay out of pocket for the repair.

“As the number of features on cars on the road is growing, it may lead to more repair issues initially, but over time, I think the problems people experience will decrease,” Zuby said.

As an example, he pointed to Ford's introduction of an aluminum body on the F-150.

“The repair costs initially were higher and took longer [than for steel], but in the most recent update, there was no difference,” Zuby said. “It just takes time for these new issues to be fully addressed.”

Zuby said there is a concern that if consumers continue to experience problems, there will be less interest in the technology, and car buyers as a whole will be less likely to purchase vehicles with those features.

“As a safety organization, we’d like to see more cars equipped with them,” Zuby said.

The IIHS will continue to study the reasons behind the high rate of post-repair issues.

“We suspect part of it is growing pains, but we also suspect we need to make repair info more readily available, to not just OE shops but also independent shops,” Zuby said.

“Self-diagnostics were the least common reason to seek repair; we also think the auto industry could do more to make systems capable of alerting when a repair is needed,” he added.

Zuby said automakers have an obligation to make repair processes as simple as possible, and insurers also have to understand what they’re insuring so they’re not pushing back against estimates.

Abby Andrews

Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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