Auto Service World
News   November 20, 2020   by Allan Janssen

Standardizing ADAS terminology

SAE has drafted a standard, J3063, that dictates common names for ADAS components in an effort to eliminate service provider confusion.

By Allan Haberman

If you think advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are brand new on the automotive scene, you might be surprised to find out they’ve actually been around for a long time.

In fact, the earliest systems are now decades old and every auto repair shop in the country has become adept at repairing them.

Think about the anti-lock braking system. ABS is so common now that we don’t think of it as being advanced. But it fits the description as a “driver assistance” system, and when it was introduced, it was nothing less than cutting-edge technology.

Power steering is another, even older technology that fits the ADAS description, and represented the most advanced technology of its time.

We have become so familiar with these early ADAS examples that we now take them for granted. Those who are intimidated by the new crop of driver assists need only think about the underlying technology to start to feel a little more comfortable

Adaptive cruise control, for example, is really just the latest generation of an early ADAS development: cruise control. That early system was primitive compared to what we have now, but it was “advanced” technology when it was introduced.

You can be forgiven for not making the connection between the old system and the new. TH new ones go by dozens of different names. Each manufacturer seems to want to put its own stamp on these speed control systems. And therein lies a big problem for the aftermarket.

There is little shared terminology in the introduction of ADAS technology. There are literally hundreds of different names for the various systems in use on today’s vehicles. When it comes to new vehicle technology, it’s the wild, wild west out there!

Hopefully that will change soon.

ADAS is to safety systems what OBD I was to engine and emissions control systems. Prior to the standardization brought in by OBD II regulations, each manufacturer had its own diagnostic connector and a different name for every sensors and related component.

The diagnostic information that was available from each manufacturer varied. Some offered bi-directional controls, while others did not. Some offered live scan data. There was no standard for naming sensors or components. And the kind and amount of data available varied from vehicle to vehicle.

The jumble of competing strategies was resolved only when the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), drafted the J1979 standard with recommendations for mandatory OBD II PIDs (parameter IDs) for on-road vehicles sold in North America.

J1979 became a defining part of OBD II and manufacturers were required to support the J1979 PIDs (commonly referred to as Global OBD II data). This made it possible to access critical data with many generic scan tools.

This was a major change from OBD I. Every OBD II vehicle, regardless of make or model, domestic or Asian or European, displayed critical data in a standard format on scan tools. The names of data PIDs were all the same. And over time these terms became familiar to all service providers, eliminating a lot of confusion.

We are approaching the same point for advanced driver assist systems. SAE has drafted a standard, J3063, that dictates common names for ADAS components in an effort to eliminate service provider confusion.

Although manufacturers may continue to use different names for ADAS technology in their marketing, service information will have to use generic terms. This will be extremely helpful to technicians searching for calibration and repair information.

Having a common name for systems across manufacturers would also benefit consumers when comparing safety systems from one manufacturer to another. A generic name could better describe the function of the system when some of the names currently used have more to do with marketing than system function.

Resolving this confusion will be fantastic. A quick look online found there are at least 40 different names for automatic emergency braking systems, and 20 for adaptive cruise control. Finding the correct calibration information or service instruction depends on knowing the exact terminology for the system in question.

And sometimes the name alone will not be enough. You may need to do some research to determine what the system does exactly. For example, most systems containing the word “warning” are designed only to notify the driver with visual or audible queues. They are not designed to make any driving adjustments.

Lane departure warnings notify the driver if the vehicle starts to deviate from its lane. It is the lane keeping assist system that makes minor driving adjustments to keep the vehicle in its own lane.

Without terminology standards, it will be difficult to know if a system is supposed to simply warn the driver or actively control vehicle operation. And to add to the confusion, there are also differing levels of operational intervention.

Some adaptive cruise control systems can control vehicle speed all the way to a complete stop if necessary and then resume to a set speed when the way is clear. Others will not resume the set speed after being activated. So how do we know what “normal operation” is for a particular system?

It’s important to consult the correct service information for the specific vehicle we’re working on. This is true when working on any system, not just ADAS.

Also, when we calibrate a system we need to know if the procedure is static or dynamic. What, if any, specific drive cycle is required for the calibration? Do we need a scan tool? Do we need special equipment? Do we need to drive the vehicle, or can the calibration be performed in the bay? How long will the procedure take and what should we charge the customer?

Perhaps most important is knowing when a calibration is required. Many of the routine operations we perform may require a subsequent ADAS calibration, or other procedure.

Forward facing radar systems, for example, need to be calibrated whenever an alignment is performed. That’s right, an alignment isn’t just an alignment anymore.

Replacing an air conditioning condenser may require a calibration.

Replacing the radiator may require a calibration.

It’s important to advise customers that if their vehicle has an ADAS component it may require a calibration even if the service you’re performing seems completely unrelated. Consumers rely on us to be the experts on keeping their vehicles safe.

We need to keep up with changes in technology so we continue to offer the highest level of professionalism and service.


Allan Haberman is an automotive trainer based in Winnipeg, Man.


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