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The Importance of ADAS Calibration

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technology is having an impact on road safety

and crash prevention. Using radar and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and cameras, ADAS systems can detect potential collisions and warn drivers to act. In addition, ADAS features like automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control can help prevent crashes. As ADAS continues to evolve, we can expect even more advanced safety features to be integrated into future vehicles.



However, in any new technology's introduction and integration into a system, in this case, motor vehicles, two aspects need to be thoroughly recognised instead of manufacturers' and governments' current blanket introduction approach. The aviation industry is a key example; when they introduced increased autonomation to cockpits decades ago, with the promise of significant crash reductions, the initial outcome was an increase rather than a decrease in incidents. Many fatal and serious incidents occurred due to a lack of user understanding of their automated systems' function, performance and intended place in the pilot aircraft system.


With the push by governments and safety organisations to mandate ADAS technologies such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard, we need to address the flow-on effects for vehicles' continued performance and maintenance and, significantly, how it interacts with the driver.


While we won't delve into the human factors side of things right now, we will discuss the other crucial aspect, the ability of the ADAS functions in a vehicle to operate as designed throughout its life, especially after even a minor collision.


It's essential to keep in mind that maintaining electronic systems in a vehicle is just as important as maintaining its mechanical systems, especially when it comes to the sensors of the ADAS systems. These sensors are the eyes and ears of the vehicle and, similar to ours, can deteriorate or get damaged over time.



 

2015 Toyota Sai ADAS Post Crash Calibration Example

The subject of this example is a second-hand Japanese domestic market Toyota Sai, a higher specification domestic version of the popular Prius. This vehicle was presented to the approved repairer after a collision where it sustained minor frontal damage.

Photo 1 – Toyota Sai as presented for assessment.

Toyota Sai as presented for assessment

This vehicle has two primary ADAS sensors. The first is the radar sensor mounted behind the manufacturer's emblem, while the second is a single camera affixed to the top centre of the windshield. These sensors assist in identifying and categorising potential hazards. However, the radar sensor is situated in a vulnerable position and may become misaligned or damaged due to even minor impacts.


Radar sensor (highlighted in blue) position between headlights and behind the Toyota emblem.

Post Repair Radar Calibration Failure

Radar uses radio waves transmitted and received to identify an object's position and range. On a vehicle, these are transmitted and received by the vehicle's radar sensor module, typically through emblems and other panels. So manufacturers carefully control and account for the construction of these components, as even the paint's or a vinyl wrap's thickness can affect the Radar's range. (The testing is one of the many in the projects test program)


The repairer followed the repair guidelines and ordered an OEM emblem/grille from Toyota, kowning the importance of correctly functioning ADAS sensors.

Top down view of radar sensor and replacement Toyota emblem/grille.

However, regardless of this, the system would not calibrate to OEM specifications after completing the repairs.


Reaching out to a diagnostics and ADAS specialist, it was soon discovered that the supplied emblem/grille was, in fact, incorrect, and this was the primary factor behind the calibration issues. During their comprehensive diagnostic fault-finding process, they also uncovered a previously unknown and concerning camera system problem.


 

ADAS Camera Issue

It is crucial to ensure that a vehicle's ADAS camera is correctly fitted and calibrated to ensure the system functions as designed. Although not as susceptible as the front Radar, the camera can still become misaligned or damaged during windscreen replacement since it is typically attached to the windscreen itself. Moreover, a buildup of grime or moisture on the inside or outside of the windscreen can obstruct or distort the camera's view.


Even though vehicles have numerous self-check and diagnostics tests on start-up and during operation, they are not foolproof, which can be concerning as they are the driver's primary means of information on various vehicle systems. However, shockingly they are currently the only method the multitude of complex electronic systems are function checked when second-hand imported vehicles are compliance checked for use on New Zealand roads.


The Toyota was imported into New Zealand in 2020 and obtained and then passed several WOF checks, which also only checked for vehicle dashboard fault lights; it had been operating with a significant ADAS performance issue.

When imported, it still had its Japanese compulsory technical inspection sticker (their WOF), shockingly in front of the ADAS camera. So this vehicle had been operating in Japan and New Zealand, with one of its primary ADAS sensors, the camera, with its forward view significantly obscured.



In essence, the lower view of the camera, blinkering it like a horse, all while the vehicle's self-diagnostic indicated the system was functioning correctly. So in effect, this would mean a blindspot for objects closer to the front of the car whilst still allowing those further out to be in view.


 

Discussion

Although the vehicle underwent a comprehensive and well-planned diagnostic process with skilled technicians, it revealed various shortcomings and worries regarding the importation checks, continuous upkeep, and evaluation of our vehicle fleet's ADAS functionality.


After leaving the factory, a vehicle's ADAS calibration is not monitored, and the onboard self-check system only checks its operation and performance.


When utilising Radar technology, engineers must consider various factors such as design, location, and materials to ensure optimal functionality. This is because Radar operates on radio signals that are transmitted and received. However, if incorrect replacement parts, vinyl wraps, or aftermarket bumper are installed, or if the wrong paint thickness is used during repairs, it can significantly affect the range and performance of the Radar.


Even minor frontal impacts can affect a vehicle's Radar and could affect its performance. It may be functioning, but its range or accuracy could be degraded. The further away the system can detect an upcoming hazard, the sooner it can warn the driver or emergency brake to reduce the severity or avoid a collision.


Improper installation after a windscreen replacement can damage or misalign a crucial sensor, decreasing system performance if not corrected and calibrated.


Therefore, vehicle owners need to ensure their ADAS systems are serviced and checked by a trusted ADAS specialist after any repairs, including windscreen replacement, or when buying a second-hand car.


 

What is the ADAS Performance Project

Manufacturers test their systems to meet standards like Euro NCAP or IIHS, but these standards don't fully reflect ADAS performance in the real world. The factory testing conditions are different from real-world conditions. To address this, the ADAS Performance Project conducts independent testing and verification of ADAS-related systems in real-world conditions. The project will consider factors such as poor calibration, non-compliant repairs, typical damage, and age-related system degradation. This project combines independent vehicle systems and diagnostics specialists with those in the crash analysis and testing field. Doing so enables them to present tangible results based on their unique areas of expertise.

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