Aug. 14, 2017—“If you go to any new car lot or any rental car facility,” Dave Hobbs says, “chances are you’re going to be stumbling all over the telltale signs of radars in cars, which will be the little icons you can see in rearview mirrors, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance, autonomous and semi-autonomous … ”
If you don’t stop Hobbs there, he’ll keep going. As a field instructor and program developer for Delphi Product & Service Solutions, this lifelong technician is constantly out in the field, tirelessly warning shop owners, technicians and service advisors everywhere that if they don’t understand these systems, they’re not just going to lose customers to dealerships and progressive shops—they’re going to put drivers in danger.
In July, Bosch told Reuters it has seen a surge in demand for radar systems and video sensors as automakers race to add advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) features and automated functions to cars. The company said it expected sales of radar systems to leap by 60 percent and of video sensors by 80 percent this year. So falling behind is not an option.
Hobbs presented on ADAS training at the Automotive Service Association’s inaugural Connected CARS training event in May 2017. He spoke with Ratchet+Wrench about why understanding these systems is more important than ever, and how shops can properly educate customers on the technology.
Why is it important for independent repair shops to understand ADAS?
Radars in bumper covers, smart cameras in the windshield, standard cameras for back-up systems, composite video signals—those types of technology have been out there since the 1990s and they are starting to fail. All of that stuff from the past is now becoming smarter with all the radar technologies.
It’s all gotten much better about lowering the injury potential for the driver, by getting all the airbags ready, pulling the brake pedal out of the way prior to the collision, etc. We don’t just have a bunch of radars, LiDARs and cameras doing their own thing. They're all reporting into the central collision avoidance module. And that module makes the decision to apply the brakes, activate the airbags. That’s where the market is heading. You’ll see a lot more cars with this technology.
What percentage of cars have these systems nowadays?
I don’t have any industry specs on that. From personal experience, on 2017 cars and newer, I’d say at least 15 percent, if not more. With the insurance benefits we’ll see, government-driven safety policies, and the increased marketing we’ve already seen on television from Kia, Mazda, Chevrolet—the market is going to grow immensely very soon.
How do technicians get the proper training for these advancements?
You can find lists of classes at conferences, but really, only the bigger conferences have the cutting-edge stuff. For the independent aftermarket, the programs have not really taken off for automated driver-assist systems, especially for live training. Delphi has classes, but we’re in the minority, mainly because we’re one of the companies building this stuff.
I hope this doesn’t catch the industry by surprise, because then they’re ill equipped and undertrained. This is what happened with programming. Shops would say, “Gee, I don’t know what to do! I’m not one of the 10 percent of repair shops that does reflashing, so I guess this job will go to the dealer.”
What about service advisors? Do they need training? And do they need to be educating customers on this technology?
In our classes, we emphasize that the service advisor’s job is not just sales and people skills. How can you sell furniture if you don’t know the difference in flooring? The difference in textures? Or know about the build of a La-Z-Boy’s hardware? You can’t.
As a service advisor, you can’t be in over your head and call the technician up to the front to explain to the customer every time. The advisor has to bone up and take an ADAS class about the high-tech stuff. Even though you won’t understand every bit of the technical side of it like a technician would, you’ve got to know the technology to a level where they can explain it to the customer.
How do you see the process working for shops that are regularly monitoring ADAS systems?
I saw a story about police cracking down on these autonomous cars. Some people sit in the passenger seat and nobody is driving the car; no one is there to take the car should the system fail. Police are seeing the potential for this being a bigger problem than texting while driving.
So, as we see the culture change and people start adapting to and abusing the system, we’ll see the service advisors and techs involved. Any time the vehicle comes in because there’s a light that comes on and says the adaptive cruise control isn't working, consumer education needs to be applied by the service advisor. The service advisor needs to be savvy and give good information to then relay that on the RO for the technician. The teamwork between the advisor and the tech has to be cutting edge on these systems, or we’re going to be going down all kinds of false trails of diagnosis.