Q&A With John Waraniak

SEMA News—April 2018


By Mike Imlay

Q&A With John Waraniak

ADAS: Safety Performance for All

OEM-embedded ADAS combines active and passive safety technologies. Currently, passive systems offer significant aftermarket opportunities. Courtesy: Shutterstock.com

While identifying multiple growth opportunities for the specialty-equipment industry, the recently released “SEMA Advanced Vehicle Technology Opportunities Report” (p. 118) also raises questions of innovation, preparedness and best practices. To dig deeper into the fundamentals, SEMA News turned to SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak.

SEMA News: The original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are leading the technological charge with advanced drive assistance systems (ADAS) on newer vehicles, but they’re also leaving gaps. What are some of the gaps that the aftermarket can leverage and fill?

John Waraniak: First, I’d like to clarify a point of confusion for many: There’s a big difference between automated vehicles and assisted vehicles with ADAS. We’re quite a way from fully automated SAE Level-4 and Level-5 automated vehicles, but many driver-assistance vehicle technologies are for sale today through both the aftermarket and the OEMs. A lot of it is vision- and distance-based, whether through cameras, radar or light detection and ranging (lidar). That’s what is changing so quickly, especially in the aftermarket.

The growth of ADAS is going to rise dramatically over the next few years, driven by consumer demand for what I call “increased safety performance for all.” Being in the performance industry, I think it’s good for us to identify the ADAS aftermarket as a new performance category built on safety.

The OEMs provide what I call “embedded ADAS.” They’ll integrate factory systems throughout the vehicle, but a lot of those systems are fairly expensive and bundled to different option packages. After all, those systems started on high-end vehicles but now are quickly spreading to mid- and lower-range vehicles. So if customers can’t or won’t pay for all the systems at the dealership, they can still add or retrofit very viable, cost-effective passive ADAS alternatives like blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning through the aftermarket. That’s a great example of increased safety performance plus
lifestyle personalization.

Within the OEM embedded systems, there are two important distinctions: active versus passive safety systems. The active systems are highly integrated with the vehicle. That’s an OEM specialty, because they know the vehicle architecture better than anybody else. An active system such as lane-keeping assistance will actually steer you back into the lane if you drift. The growth potential for the aftermarket is in passive safety performance products, and the three greatest opportunities there are lane-departure, blind-spot and forward-collision warning systems. Warning is the key word. They don’t actually control the vehicle; they just give you an alert or warning—a light, a sound or a rumble.

SN: Obviously, there’s also a major opportunity to retrofit older-model vehicles. What do you see consumers looking for in that regard, and what can the aftermarket offer them?

John Waraniak
John Waraniak is the SEMA vice president of vehicle technology.

JW: SEMA’s latest study into ADAS was designed around one question: What’s the business opportunity for the development and installation of aftermarket ADAS systems on vehicles that are not ADAS equipped? Retrofitting rearview backup cameras has really been the beginning of aftermarket ADAS. That’s where a lot of SEMA members jumped in. Government regulation mandating backup cameras by 2018 on every new vehicle helped push consumer awareness of these new products.

Fast forward, and now there are a lot of aftermarket companies offering heads-up displays that display on mobile phones or by projection onto the windshield. Blind-spot indicators for towing packages are another great example of filling that void on vehicles that lack them. Consumers may see or experience such features on leased or other newer vehicles and realize that they want them. That’s where quite a few aftermarket companies are recognizing and filling a need and leveraging new growth opportunities with ADAS technologies.

SN: We are saying that now is a favorable time for innovative product developers to get into the ADAS aftermarket, but how likely are the finance community and government to support manufacturers and suppliers in that regard?

JW: A couple points here: If we rely on only OEM sales in the United States, it will take about 15–20 years to reach a critical mass of vehicles on the road equipped with ADAS or connected-vehicle technologies (CVT). If we can use the aftermarket to help increase or accelerate the deployment of those technologies, we can get there in half the time. That’s really the role that the government—especially the Department of Transportation and National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration—sees us playing.

The government wants to see premium discounts and auto insurance incentives for these ADAS technologies, and the American Association of Retired People is really pushing for these systems among older drivers. So there may be financial incentives for shops retrofitting vehicles and vehicle fleets. Also, there’s no government-agency regulation for many of these systems—yet—because they don’t want to stifle

Finally, a lot of major tech companies—Apple, Google, etc.—are getting financing for these innovations from a lot of venture capitalists. Of the 52 Techstarts Mobility automotive technology startups at the recent Detroit Auto Show, about 90% of them were aftermarket mobility and ADAS companies. So investment interest is out there.

SN: It seems that virtually every aftermarket product that touches a vehicle will eventually be impacted by ADAS. What are some unexpected consequences for aftermarket product development?

JW: I love that question, because it’s true. For example, bumpers, taillights and headlights now have radar, LIDAR or camera sensors embedded into them. So if you’re replacing a bumper, first you have to make sure you allow for that ADAS sensor to see through the new bumper with cutouts or inserts. If you put a billet bumper on that doesn’t allow for that, the system won’t work. New running boards can block lane-keeping systems. Plus, headlight and taillight lens configurations with built-in cameras or sensors can differ from model to model.

A huge market segment for the aftermarket is wheels and tires. There are now an estimated 55 million vehicles produced a year with ADAS-related steering-angle sensors. So if you put larger wheel and tire applications on an ADAS-equipped vehicle, you have to reset the steering-angle sensor. How many shops know that and know how to reset the steering sensor?

ADAS will soon affect virtually every vehicle component, making development of proper tooling, diagnostics and best practices a high priority. Courtesy: Shutterstock.com

SN: Obviously, repairers, jobbers and product developers will need to figure out ways to supply, install and repair OE-calibrated products. What’s happening on
that front?

JW: Again, take wheels and tires as an example. What if you don’t reset the steering sensor? Well, one of the tools out there is a diagnostic scanning tool—a sort of vehicle health indicator. You plug it into the OBD-II port, and it tells you if the systems are actually operating correctly or not.

Your typical vehicle today has about 12 dash warning lights. But there are more than 1,000 possible diagnostic trouble codes. Just changing the wheels and tires, you’ll probably throw off 20 of them. Even if you don’t throw any dash warnings, you can still be out of “functional compliance”—the term for how the vehicle is actually intended to work. And the diagnostic tool may tell you if systems are working but not how to fix them if
they aren’t.

Some software systems can recalibrate themselves. Others may require manual or software recalibration. It can vary across make and model. That’s honestly where we’re at in terms of R&D and the complexity of what challenges we’re up against. SEMA is at work to help find solutions for those challenges and helping members demonstrate compliance of aftermarket-modified vehicles.

SN: Will we likely see more testing/(re)calibration tooling solutions introduced by the aftermarket? Or will OEMs keep a lock on the diagnostic systems and tools required to correct and/or recalibrate ADAS sensors and systems after vehicles are repaired or modified?

JW: First, we have a very collaborative effort underway with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Mobile Electronics Association to identify approaches, resources, solutions and tools to maintain a vehicle’s functional compliance after repairs or modifications, including running the scans to do that.

Currently, a vehicle repair facility may have a few scanning tools, which can run from $5,000–$50,000. The more expensive version gets updated from the cloud daily from the OEMs. The lower-end version may get updated only yearly. Some tools are good for only one specific vehicle. Complicating things, some insurance companies are reticent to pay for the scans, while the OEMs are insisting they be done, raising jobber liability issues. So those are immediate issues our industry is
already facing.

SN: Given these many issues, what is SEMA now doing to identify even further areas for growth and to develop best practices for dealing with ADAS technologies?

JW: Among other initiatives, we’ve formed a cross-council Vehicle Technology Task Force, which is being complemented by the SEMA Emerging Trends & Technology Network, Wheel & Tire Council and Professional Restylers Organization. The task force will be the bridge to the general membership, getting SEMA-developed ADAS resources and guidelines out to our industry participants.

SN: We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Do you have any parting thoughts?

JW: We’ve so far just addressed a few ADAS technologies and will cover more ADAS technologies in SEMA News. SEMA research has also identified CVT as an area for aftermarket growth. That encompasses vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-X communications—the latter including pedestrians and bicyclists, for example. That’s being pushed with digital short-range communications (DSRC) radios, which are more like chips the size of your thumbnail as opposed to head units.

It will be a pretty lucrative business for the aftermarket to install DSRC radios, which will likely be positioned on the backs of rearview mirrors. That’s projected as a great longer-range potential for the aftermarket about five years out. Right now, the government is taking a while to regulate the necessary frequency for automotive use only, so that’s holding back investment. But it, too, will be an aftermarket growth trend to watch.

As a racing and performance enthusiast and an aftermarket advocate, particularly in Detroit, I’m asked a lot why I’m so excited about ADAS and CVT advancements. Number one is safety performance. Currently, about 40,000 people are dying every year on our roads. We can offer society an enormous benefit in dramatically decreasing that number. Second, racing is the front line for problem solving and technology demonstration, and technology is the engine of growth. We need to keep that at the forefront for the continued development of new safety performance products and systems.

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