ADAS Technology’s Impact on Vehicle Customization

In the evolving landscape of automotive technology, the intersection between vehicle customization and advanced driver assistance systems is becoming increasingly pronounced. With the proliferation of ADAS technology aimed at enhancing safety and convenience, a critical discussion emerges regarding the implications for aftermarket modifications. This issue, poised to disrupt the traditional aftermarket industry, raises pertinent questions about the right to repair and the need for industrywide collaboration.

The Problem: Navigating the Intersection of Customization and ADAS

A glance at the history of electronic control unit tuning serves as a cautionary tale for the automotive industry. ECU modifications, once a thriving domain for enthusiasts and aftermarket companies, encountered regulatory scrutiny due to noncompliant alterations. While some endeavored to ensure compliance with emissions regulations, others flouted laws, triggering stringent regulations and enhanced security measures by OEMs.

Today, the advent of ADAS technology presents a new frontier fraught with challenges for vehicle customization. With federal mandates requiring the integration of ADAS features in 2025 vehicles and about 75% of vehicles in North America estimated to be ADAS-equipped by 2030, so the aftermarket faces a paradigm shift.

The Specialty Equipment Market Assn.’s recent whitepaper highlighted the study of modifications on a single vehicle in their garage whereas altering vehicle height still allowed the systems to function but with some variation in range differences in overall system behavior. These modifications, though aimed at personalization or performance enhancement, have the potential to compromise critical safety features, endangering lives on the road.

Furthermore, the complexity of ADAS systems renders detection of malfunctions elusive, with no overt indicators of system failure. American Automobile Assn. researchers found that vehicles actively equipped with ADAS experienced some type of issue every eight miles (13 km), on average. This opacity poses a significant challenge for both vehicle owners and aftermarket modifiers, necessitating a proactive approach to address compatibility and calibration issues.

The Solution: Embracing Transparency and Collaboration

Transparency emerges as a cornerstone for navigating the confluence of vehicle customization and ADAS technology. Establishing clear tolerance limits and accessibility to vehicle calibration parameters enables aftermarket modifiers to make informed decisions. Collaboration between OEMs, aftermarket entities and regulatory bodies is imperative to develop standardized procedures and guidelines for vehicle customization.

Moreover, vehicles must be designed with customization in mind, integrating technology that facilitates modifications without compromising safety or functionality. Service procedures should be updated to accommodate customization, delineating supported modifications and requisite calibration procedures.

Right to Repair: Enabling Access to Diagnostics and Calibration

The right to repair assumes heightened significance in the context of ADAS-equipped vehicles. Access to diagnostic tools and calibration data becomes indispensable for aftermarket modifiers to ensure the integrity of ADAS systems post-customization. However, challenges arise as some manufacturers restrict access to ADAS diagnostics, invoking proprietary barriers that stifle competition and innovation. This restrictive data access has become the top issue for independent repair shops today and is costing them an estimated $3.1 billion each year, according to a recent survey by the Auto Care Assn.

Legislative efforts, exemplified by the Massachusetts right to repair law (which has shifted into the federal Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act [the REPAIR Act]), aim to safeguard access to diagnostic tools and service information. Yet, ongoing legal disputes underscore the need for comprehensive federal legislation to address evolving automotive technology.

While Congress continues to weigh in on federal right-to-repair legislation, modern vehicle diagnostics and solutions providers have been heavily relied upon in the industry. By offering a combination of advanced diagnostics, expert support, and proper ADAS calibration tools for repairers, these providers have been integral to establishing optimal vehicle efficiency, safeguarding both the driver and other road users.

The Step Forward: Advocating for Industrywide Collaboration and Standardization

Moving forward, industry stakeholders must engage in constructive dialogue to reconcile the objectives of vehicle customization with the imperatives of ADAS technology. Collaboration with automakers and regulators is essential to establish protocols for accessing secure gateways and telematics data. Adoption of standards by organizations like the Society of Automotive Engineers can provide clarity on calibration procedures, customization capabilities and self-testing mechanisms for ADAS systems.

Education emerges as a vital component in fostering understanding among aftermarket modifiers regarding the intricacies of ADAS technology. Equipped with knowledge and standardized procedures, modifiers can design parts and installations that seamlessly integrate with ADAS systems, ensuring optimal performance and safety.

Brian Herron.pngNavigating the Road Ahead

As the automotive industry grapples with the integration of ADAS technology and vehicle customization, collaboration and transparency emerge as guiding principles. The right to repair assumes heightened relevance, ensuring equitable access to diagnostics and calibration data. By fostering dialogue and embracing standardized protocols, stakeholders can navigate the complexities of ADAS-equipped vehicles, ushering in an era of safe and innovative vehicle customization.

Brian Herron (pictured, above left) is the president and CEO of Opus IVS, a global diagnostics, ADAS calibration, programming and remote services provider focused on safe, complex vehicle repair.

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