Hofmann Megaplan Blog
ADAS: The Ins & Outs of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
ADAS has become a bit of Buzz word in the motor industry recently but, in reality, we’ve all been living with various forms of it for many years.
From Anti-lock braking (ABS) and electronic stability programs (ESP) to adaptive cruise control using radar technology, our vehicles have been silently assisting us to enjoy a safer driving experience for years.
So, what’s new about ADAS then?
ADAS Technology in 2021...
ADAS is not new, it’s the way it’s been integrated with other systems in vehicles to take safety and comfort for drivers and other road users to another level that’s the interesting part.
Building on the technology that has been stealthily increasing in our vehicles, ADAS is now able to bring together those systems to allow the car to warn the driver or even take control of braking and steering systems, intervening when a driver has not responded to a perceived danger.
Camera systems often mounted in the windscreen can read road signs and alert the driver to changing speed limits. They also monitor the white lines that make up the road lanes to warn or even help correct a car’s course if the driver strays out of the lane.
With camera technology taking care of the short to medium range activities, it’s down to the radar system to take the longer view. The radar unit is often mounted in the front grill area and uses its long-range abilities to manage active cruise control (by matching the speed of cars ahead) and emergency braking systems (by recognising pedestrians and vehicles which may be in the cars path). Once detected the system can alert the driver to the potential danger ahead, reduce the speed, or even stop the car in emergency situations.
Rear radar systems work in tandem with rear view cameras and parking sensors to warn of vehicles or objects that are about to cross your path when reversing. Often out of view of the driver, the reversing camera and even the parking sensors, the long reach of the radar can stretch the driver’s awareness area warning of these potential dangers.
How critical is performing maintenance on ADAS Systems?
With so much good built into these ADAS systems, giving us the possibility to reduce accidents and save lives, it’s crucial to ensure they are working effectively. And for the systems to work correctly, they need to be accurately aligned to the path of the vehicle.
We all accept that wheel alignment is just a normal part of repairing and maintaining vehicles – if left unchecked and the geometry falls out of tolerance, the car may not drive correctly, and the tyres might wear out quickly.
The same principle applies to ADAS, if you make a change to the car that affects the angle the car presents whilst travelling, it’s possible that certain areas of the driver’s view may not be covered by the system’s camera and radar, potentially missing out on vital information. Conversely, a misaligned system could pick up dangers and react to them when they are not in the cars path. Windscreen replacement is another area to be considered; if the camera was removed as part of the process, ensuring the camera is correctly aligned after repair is vital.
After any repair that could affect the alignment (or view) of these systems, it’s important to ensure they are working correctly and that they are correctly aligned. For this you need an ADAS alignment rig; typically made up of a large frame and a diagnostic tool, this equipment allows the user to test and, if necessary, re-align the camera and radar systems.
The right ADAS Calibration machine for your services...
There are a number of ADAS alignment rigs on the market today and these are split into two main categories: Analogue and Digital.
Analogue systems require pre-printed boards which are applied to a framework in front of the car to show the specific test pattern for calibrating the camera systems for that car. The framework needs to be very accurately positioned to ensure the pattern on the board is suitably aligned to the car; an often time-consuming process requiring care and attention to get right. Once set up, the diagnostic tool then communicates with the vehicle’s computers, putting them into calibration mode and effectively teaching the vehicle where it should be looking.
With so many different vehicle marques in the UK, many with their own design of calibration boards, purchasing and storing these boards and protecting them from damage can be an expensive challenge associated with analogue systems.
The digital system does away with the need for physical boards and utilises keystone technology to reproduce the image of a pattern board on a large-scale high-definition monitor. A PC mounted to the monitor stand manages the images and communicates with a handheld diagnostic tool which guides the user through the process, step by step, to check and if necessary, re-align the cameras.
This keystone technology helps to reduce set up time, quickly building confidence in the user through simplicity of operation, but the system has another trick up its sleeve. Some vehicle manufacturers employ multi-stage camera calibration processes where the system needs to see the alignment pattern at multiple distances from the vehicle. No problem for the Digital system; it simply shrinks the image shown on the screen to allow the second or third calibration points to be taken without even moving the frame. With radar alignments being carried out with the same ease using the same accurate laser measurement process combined with a mirror on the frame to give the positional feedback to the vehicle, Digital ADAS alignment equipment is the real deal.
Who should be in the market for ADAS alignment?
Anyone who’s serious about providing garage services.
You would be hard pushed to find a car being built today that didn’t have some sort of ADAS system and considering that these systems have been in use in vehicles for many years now, looking after them falls squarely into the remit of garages outside of franchised dealerships.
ADAS alignment was once perceived as a bit of a dark art, only for specialists. But with the simplification of the processes brought about through digital alignment systems, the process is set to become as common place as checking wheel alignment.