New Vehicle Technology Drives Need for Scan and Calibration
This month’s CCC Trends report is an in-depth look at the growing complexity of collision repairs given the proliferation of new technology in cars today.
Anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of vehicles today have at least one Advanced Driver Assistance System feature. Backup cameras, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, forward collision – the list goes on.
These new technologies require repairers to conduct more complex repair operations such as vehicle scan and calibration, leading to increased costs and longer repair times.
Even a simple fender bender can mean having to reposition, reprogram and/or recalibrate systems. One camera, sensor, radar or lidar system removed or replaced can trigger a domino of more and other needed repairs.
Adding further complexity is the wide variability in how both which electronic components are used and how they are setup within the vehicle. This leads to wide variability in how calibrations are performed among automakers. Repairers more than ever rely on OEM service information and scan tools. Finally, these repair operations mean repairers need techs with the right skill sets which in turn often means higher labor costs.
Explore the report below for in-depth coverage of how new vehicle technology is impacting collision repair.
Vehicle Age for Insurance Claims Skew Younger
The average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. grew from 9.6 years in the early 2000’s to 11.8 years in 2018. The pace of growth in average vehicle age has fluctuated with the economy and vehicle sales: between 2002-2007 the average age increased 3.5 percent; from 2008-2013 it increased 12.2 percent; and between 2014-2019 it increased 4 percent.[i] With the pandemic and the semiconductor chip shortage in 2020 and 2021, new vehicle sales fell, scrappage rates grew, but fewer miles traveled led to a further increase in average vehicle age to 12.1 years.[ii]
The average age of vehicles for which an automotive insurance claim was made has also gotten older over that time. However, it has historically trended above 5 years newer: in the early 2000’s the average age was 5 years; by 2011 it grew to 6 years; and in 2021 reached 7. 1 years.
Yet a comparison of the share of volume of registered U.S. passenger cars and light trucks in 2021 to the share of vehicle claims in 2021 underscores how vehicle claims skew younger (Figure 1). This difference can be explained in part based on many consumers opting out of all but the mandatory insurance coverages for older vehicles, but perhaps also a by-product of exposure. Analysis of vehicle claims by vehicle age suggests vehicles are driven less as they age (Figure 2), subsequently reducing exposure to accident.
With vehicle claims skewing to a younger aged vehicle population, more of these vehicles are equipped with the newest vehicle technologies such as connected vehicle technology and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These technologies have led to exponential growth in the electronic content in vehicles – for example the average vehicle manufactured today contains more than 1000 semiconductor computer chips along with numerous cameras and sensors. In fact, by Q4 2021 nearly 16 percent of all repairable appraisals included a repair or replace of nearly two camera, radar, or sensor parts (Figure 3). For example, a NHTSA mandate requires all vehicles produced and sold in the U.S. market from May 1, 2018, requires all vehicles be equipped with rear backup cameras. As electronic content has grown, the ability to identify which vehicle features may have been damaged or are inoperable can be done only when a vehicle scan is performed. These electronics are integrated and fused to multiple systems; a scan can help identify communication errors and reasons; damaged modules; wire or connector damage; pre-existing damage; corrosion issues; warranty issues; and aftermarket accessories interference.[iii] It is important to understand however that depending on the vehicle and its set conditions, damage might not appear on the pre-scan or in process scan and appear only after a post scan and/or test drive. Set conditions are requirements identified by the manufacturer in the OEM repair procedures that specify things like speed, vehicle temperature, drive pattern, drive distance, road type and other criteria that the repairer can consider in determining whether vehicle features like ADAS are operating correctly post-repair.
OEMs Take a Stance on Requirements for Pre- and Post-Repair Scans
Beginning in CY 2015, the majority of carmakers began releasing statements outlining their positions re: the circumstances in which a vehicle should receive a pre-scan or post-scan. Many automakers such as Volvo have taken the stance that “… any and all work performed on the vehicle…” means a pre-repair scan and a post-repair scan must be completed[iv], while others such as Subaru and Stellantis identify specific model years or the repair/replace of specific part components or vehicle technologies which still account for the majority of their volume. For example, Subaru specifies model year 2004 and forward which still accounts for over 98 percent of its repairable appraisal volume in 2021. Even those without a specific position statement like VW and Audi provide guidance for when a scan tool is needed (VW and Audi do so at the Cautions and Warnings at the beginning of the body repair manual).[v]
In first quarter 2017, less than 5 percent of appraisals included an estimate line entry denoting a “scan/diagnosis/health check” operation (Figure 4). By Q4 2021 that percentage grew to over 48.9 percent. (Note also that the absence of a scan entry in the appraisal does not necessarily mean that the scan was not performed but that it was just not recorded in the appraisal itself.) Scan entries appeared on over 51 percent of Q4 2021 repairable appraisals with primary front impacts, and 50.3 percent of both primary rear and side impacts (Figure 5). Nearly 70 percent of the appraisals with at least one scan entry included two entries, implying the presence of both a pre-repair and post-repair scan (Figure 6), and nearly 75 percent of the estimate of record include scan entries (i.e. just over 25 percent of scan entries are added during supplement changes) (Figure 7).
OEM Commitment to Crash Prevention Systems Drives Tech Growth
In March 2016, NHTSA and IIHS announced a commitment of 20 major automakers representing 99 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. annually, to make front crash prevention systems (specifically front crash warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB)) standard on nearly all models by September 2022.[vi] This commitment, as well as consumer demand, has been instrumental in driving more of this technology into the overall vehicle fleet today. As part of the commitment, the 20 automakers have annually been reporting out AEB fitment rates. The latest reports show approximately 80 percent of passenger vehicles made and sold in the U.S. between September 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021 of 8500 pound curb weight or less were minimally equipped with AEB (Figure 8). In 2017, it is estimated that AEB fitment rates were about 25 percent across these twenty manufacturers; a number which grew to over 80 percent by 2021.
Applying these percentages of vehicles minimally equipped with front AEB suggests that among vehicle claims, at least 20 percent of vehicle claims in CY 2021 were vehicles with at least one ADAS feature. When looking at other features such as rear backup cameras, rear backup sensors, and blind spot monitors, the percent of vehicle claims in CY 2021 with at least one ADAS feature is likely much higher.
For example, analysis completed by IIHS/HLDI estimates ADAS features like rear camera and rear sensors have the highest fitment rates (Figure 9); suggesting that as of 2021, 60 percent of registered vehicles on the road in the U.S. are minimally equipped with at least one ADAS feature.
Increase in New Vehicle Technology Drives Need for Repair Calibration
But what does this mean from a vehicle repair perspective? More than 20 percent and perhaps as many as 60 percent of vehicles include at least one ADAS feature where operations like vehicle scan and calibration are critical to ensure those features operate properly post-repair.
Features such as rear backup cameras, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and parking assist require vehicles be equipped with numerous cameras, sensors, radar and lidar that are commonly placed around the perimeter of the vehicle, where likelihood of damage during a collision is high. All these components must be aligned properly to work as designed, and even a minor fender bender can result in the need to reposition, reprogram and/or recalibrate these systems. Even the removal and replacement of a camera, sensor, radar or lidar may require recalibration, depending on the OE and how its system is designed.
The pre-repair, in-process, and post-repair scans are necessary to get a full readout of the electronics and whether they are operable. Many manufacturers recommend a test drive or confirmation that other set conditions have been met to help identify whether a system is operating properly. If they are not, a diagnostic trouble code will be triggered, and the repairer must then repair/replace the broken part, clear the code, and perform a calibration to confirm the part is aligned properly after the repair. More concerning is the fact that if a system is not calibrated properly or the sensors are not aimed correctly, there can be instances where there is no indicator like a DTC or dash light to inform the repairer that the system is not calibrated, or the sensors are not aimed correctly. Following the vehicle-specific procedures and requirements, and documenting they have been completed properly, is critical to being able to demonstrate accurate calibration has occurred.
Calibration essentially tells a vehicle’s internal computers to readjust the cameras, sensors and other technology to function according to the vehicle’s OE specifications.[vii] A dynamic calibration may require the vehicle be test driven at certain speeds for a specified period; and that it be driven on certain types of roads with specific types of lane markings all while plugged into a scan tool.[viii] A static calibration often requires OE specific targets and equipment, and in some instances a level floor and space requirements,
Conducting a calibration can vary by manufacturer and requires OEM service information as well as scan tools. The time to recalibrate these sensors and cameras may vary depending on the complexity of the systems, and differs from a scan, which is done to identify problems within a system.
In first quarter 2017, less than one percent of appraisals included an appraisal line entry (>$0) for calibration, reflash, aim camera or sensor, or reprogram operation. By Q4 2021 that number jumped to 7.2 percent, with 16.7 percent of current model year vehicle appraisals including a calibration entry (Figure 10). For full year 2021, appraisals with a primary point of impact of Front had the highest percent with a calibration entry, followed by rear and side impacts (Figure 11). Many more calibration entries are added during supplement changes than for scans (Figure 12); and the fees associated with different types of calibrations see much greater variability than those for scans, in part due to the type of calibration performed, but also based on whether the calibration is done in the repair shop or outsourced to a dealer. Figure 13 shows the average line entry amount for subcategories of calibrations based on key words – i.e. “Calibration-Dealer” subcategory includes over 12,000 distinct line entry text strings that range from a $12,058 fee for “DEALER SUBLET AND CALIBRATION” to $46 fee for “transport to dealer to calibrate”. Given the range of what’s included (i.e. the calibration operation, an ADAS part, multiple operations, etc.) and the types of calibrations required depending on the OEM and the system being calibrated, understanding whether the fees are appropriate are an ongoing challenge.
Proper calibration is critical. As more vehicles come equipped with ADAS technologies, we see more reports of improper alignment in vehicles involved in crashes. Take for example a deadly multivehicle crash in early January 2020 near Mt Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania. An investigation by NTSB found vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds led to the fatal crash, and while the circumstances of the impacts for three of semis involved in the crash were outside the capabilities of the collision avoidance systems available, one of the truck’s collision avoidance systems was not operational due to a misalignment in the radar on which the system depended.[ix] Additionally, conducting a pre-repair scan can help repairers identify if there were any issues with the ADAS features before repair even begins. A 2021 study by TUV Rheinland and TRL revealed how regular wear and tear on a vehicle like chips in a windshield could deteriorate the functionality of an ADAS feature like lane-keeping assist.[x]
Finally, as consumer awareness of how ADAS and semi-autonomous vehicle features work, so too has tort activity related to these systems. One automaker has been named in several suits related to their driver assist technology. Ensuring the vehicle repair includes steps to properly calibrate these technologies becomes ever more important for repairers so they do not later find themselves on the hook for a system not working as designed.
The information and opinions in this publication are for general information only, are subject to change and are not intended to provide specific recommendations for any individual or entity. Although information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, CCC does not guarantee its accuracy and it may be incomplete or condensed. CCC is not liable for any typographical errors, incorrect data and/or any actions taken in reliance on the information and opinions contained in this publication. Note: Where CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. is cited as source, the data provided is an aggregation of industry data related to electronic appraisals communicated via CCC’s electronic network.
[iii] Mitch Becker. “Scanning & Calibration: What’s the Confusion?” https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/scanning-calibration-whats-the-confusion/.
[vi] Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. “Crash Prevention Technologies.” August 2016. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/crash-avoidance-technologies/qanda.
[x] TUV Rheinland Presse. “TUV Rheinland: Advanced driver assistance systems not always reliable in long-term operation.” July 8, 2021. https://presse.tuv.com/en/advanced-driver-assistance-systems-not-always-reliable-in-long-term-operation/.