• Transportation Efficiencies
  • Automated Driving Systems
  • Advanced Driver Assist Systems

Advanced Driver Assist System Vehicles May Require Pricier Repairs

Sam Abuelsamid
May 31, 2018

Bosch, the world’s largest automotive supplier, held a media event this May at its Flat Rock, Michigan proving grounds to demonstrate its latest technologies including new advanced driver assist systems (ADAS). In addition to all the components and systems that Bosch sells to most of the world’s automakers, Bosch also provides a wide range of service and repair tools for factories, dealers, and independent repair shops.

One of the static displays at the recent event was showing off equipment used to calibrate the cameras used for ADAS and automated driving. The calibration equipment includes a stand with checkerboard panels for aiming and focusing cameras, gauges for checking ride height, and electronic diagnostic tools to actually make adjustments to the sensors. While Bosch declined to discuss the price of all this equipment, given the cost of professional tools, a complete set capable of handling all the different sensors would likely run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Let’s Talk about Repairs

For a repair facility, buying tools has always been the cost of doing business. But for consumers and insurance companies, life happens and this equipment designed to save lives can also lead to substantial repair costs for damage that has nothing to do with crashes. The chances of actually being in a crash for any vehicle, including those without ADAS technology, are surprisingly small. The 6.3 million crashes in 3.1 trillion vehicle miles driven in the US in 2015 equals about one crash every half a million miles. The frequency of crashes for vehicles with ADAS should be even lower, resulting in fewer trips to the body shop. A far more likely occurrence is a pebble thrown up by one vehicle striking the windshield of another. At 70 mph, even a small projectile has a surprising amount of energy, and can lead to the formation of a crack.

Smarter Cars Can Mean More Expensive Car Work

Such a crack happened 2 years ago to one of the cars then in my household, a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta with no ADAS. A national vendor that does auto glass repair came to my home and replaced the cracked windshield in my garage in less than 30 minutes for under $250.

The Jetta was replaced by a 2017 Honda Civic last year. The latter has lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and other ADAS features including a camera mounted on the windshield.

A windshield repair estimate from the same vendor for the newer car came to $559, more than double the earlier cost. That new price does include calibrating the camera. However, not all local facilities have the equipment required to do calibrations in the field, so depending on location and the type of vehicle a customer may need to take the time to go to a repair facility.

If Smart Features Are Integrated in Common Ones, Expenses Increase

When Ford launched the current generation F-150, it featured a blindspot monitor with rear corner radar sensors integrated into tail light clusters. A broken tail light with the radar sensor cost more than $887 to replace. Ford has since redesigned the system to separate the radar sensor, reducing repair costs. However, that’s not always possible with all sensors.

Non-Crash Vehicle Repairs May Negate Savings

As manufacturers move to make ADAS features like forward collision alerts and automatic emergency braking the standard, damage caused by the vagaries of driving in the real world will offset some but probably not all of the savings that should result from reduced crash frequency. Nonetheless, consumers should be aware that when those non-crash related repairs are needed, they will likely be a lot pricier than they have been in the past.