by Bob Beranek

New technology was a subject dominating Auto Glass Week 2014™, especially lane departure systems and items needing re-calibration or initialization. I have addressed this topic in the past, but at the show we had experts from many fields giving their viewpoints at seminars and committee meetings.

It all started the first day in the Auto Glass Safety Council’s Standard Committee meeting. Mitch Becker of ABRA Auto Body & Glass presented a proposal to add a new directive to the standard addressing driver-assisted systems such as lane departure, automatic braking systems and intuitive cruise control. The committee debated the suggestion for most of our scheduled time. It is such a complex issue that we decided to form a sub-committee to study the ramifications and present a proposal for the full committee’s consideration.

Those who read my blog regularly may not be surprised that the discussions were centered on the issue of whether these systems were safety devices or performance features. One presenter said they were not safety devices because they are controlled by the driver, thus making them an option. Other presenters claimed that the marketing of these devices emphasize “added safety” so they must be considered a safety item. There were also a number of spirited conversations during presentations and cocktail parties concerning when and if the devices need calibration and how to go about it.

My take on the issue has not changed. Whether a driver-assisted system is called a safety device or not, if it comes to litigation, you are better safe than sorry. If an automotive glass shop or a dealer fails to reset, recalibrate or re-initialize a system, they will be called into court to explain why they didn’t. The judge and/or a jury will not care what the vehicle manufacturer calls it when a disabled victim is wheeled into the courtroom.

When do you re-calibrate? I think it comes down to common sense and what the vehicle manufacturer recommends. If the driver-assisted systems are attached or in close proximity to the automotive glass in the vehicle, it is wise to have it re-calibrated by a certified shop. If the vehicle manufacturer recommends re-calibration after glass replacement, it is your responsibility to make that happen.

My recommendation is to personally make an appointment with a certified dealer or shop for your customer. Then notify the two parties verbally and in writing of the details and hand the responsibility of recalibration to them to complete. Doing it this way you have greatly reduced your liability exposure.

Whether we like it or not, driver-assisted systems are not going away. On the contrary, they will be increasing and be more sophisticated. We will have to oversee and document the steps we make to keep these systems operable, or we will have to add system recalibration to our list of services. The Auto Glass Safety Council™ met with I-Car at the show and they promised to work with us on this issue as well. Look for some new announcements in future months.

I recently have heard reports that some third-party administrators (TPAs) are refusing to pay for the re-calibration of lane departure systems (LDS) built into the vehicles after a windshield is replaced. If true, it is up to the glass replacement company to communicate the importance of re-calibration to their customers and urge them to have the re-calibration completed by their vehicle dealership. It could be a matter of life or death.

First of all, there are several ways to mount the LDS sensing device. Some are mounted to the roof’s header and view through the windshield (Volvo); some are mounted to the outside rearview mirrors (BMW); others are mounted in the front grill of the vehicle; and still others are mounted to a glass bracket on the inside surface of the windshield.

Any vehicle that mounts the LDS camera to the glass requires that the camera be re-calibrated to assure proper operation. The vehicle brands that have voiced the most concern are Mercedes and Honda, but I am sure that other vehicles that have introduced this safety device will voice the same directive depending on where they decide to mount the camera. The camera shoots the center line to the left of the vehicle and vibrates the steering wheel to warn the driver when needed. Some will even begin the braking system. If the camera/sensor is misaligned, the sensor will not pick up the warning signal thus allowing the car to veer into the other lane. This is an important issue, and it must be communicated to the customer and their insurers.

Lane departure image

What do you do if the TPA refuses to pay for re-calibration? To assure that you are talking intelligently about the issue, I would suggest that you:

—Make sure that the vehicle has a glass mounted LDS and not one of the roof or grill mounted units that will not require re-calibration.

—Talk to the vehicle dealer and get a quote for calibrating the system. In our area it costs $75.00

—Get pre-authorization for the re-calibration from the TPA involved.

 —If the TPA refuses to pay for the re-calibration, ask for a written refusal letter to show your current and future customers.

—Explain the importance to the customer and charge them for the re-calibration.

—If everyone refuses to pay for the re-calibration, it will be the responsibility of the glass professional to make the final decision of refusing or accepting the job.

Remember that deviating from the vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations for safety means accepting the liability. You are the responsible party and you make the final decisions. Please let me know if you have had TPAs refuse to pay for re-calibration of lane departure systems.