Glass is one of the fastest evolving technologies in the global automotive industry and the windscreen has become a critical component in the driver-vehicle interface. This means significant change for the aftermarket when it comes to its repair and replacement and wider windscreen training needs, claims the Automotive Glazing Academy, in an article published in Motor Industry Magazine, March 2016.
This year marks the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Safety Motor Screen Company by British inventor John Wood, who patented a laminate glass for automotive use one year earlier, in 1905. From its beginnings as a means of protecting vehicle occupants from the wind and insects, today’s windscreens have taken protection to a different level.
Whilst still responsible for up to one third of a car’s overall rigidity, the advent of ‘smart glass’ technology more than a decade ago gave rise to interaction between the screen and vehicle systems. The technical definition of smart glass is the altering of light transmission properties when voltage, light or heat is applied. In the context of vehicle glazing, however, glass has become intelligent and is able to respond to changes in environmental conditions. Through the use of specialist hydrophobic and photochromic coatings and the embedding of sensors, manufacturers have enabled new areas of functionality. Capabilities including self-tinting, self-cleaning and Head-Up Display (HUD) now feature on volume models and reactive glazing technology, such as SPD Smart Glass (Suspended Particle Devices), enables both heat and light characteristics to be controlled. Such ‘embedded’ technology, however, whilst requiring greater understanding and skills, has not impacted much on the traditional model of replacement, until now.
One particular automotive acronym, ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) has got everyone talking across the whole aftermarket. Employing the use of windscreen-mounted cameras, radars and even laser sensing technology called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), ADAS is already something that sales executives are explaining to customers in the showroom. These cameras and sensors provide vital information for onboard safety systems including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, for example. Industry estimates put the level of windscreen replacements involving ADAS-equipped cars in 2014 at about 1% but this is predicted to surge to over 40% by 2020, driven partly by EuroNCAP encouraging greater use of camera-reliant safety systems.
According to the UK’s foremost provider of windscreen training and accreditation, the Automotive Glazing Academy (AGA), this level of sophistication brings challenges but also opportunity to the aftermarket.
The recalibration of an ADAS-equipped windscreen is essential following any chassis or suspension repairs, wheel-alignment, tracking, body repair and of course, screen replacement. As you’d expect, vehicle manufacturers have different stipulations, requiring ADAS cameras to be reset by either a dynamic (in motion) or static recalibration. Failure to reset cameras correctly would render a vehicle’s ADAS inaccurate or even inoperative, which could compromise the safety of the occupants and other road users.
Commented Maria Charlton, AGA’s director:
“Businesses need to understand the implications of working on vehicles with cameras and ensure they have the necessary skills base and equipment if they intend to offer recalibration as a safety critical service. It’s paramount that customers are advised of this after certain work is carried out. As ADAS is still new, the need for a joined-up approach by the industry is paramount if we are to ensure there is clarity over what practices, procedures and standards are required.”
In a concerted effort to tackle the issue, windscreen training specialist AGA is part of an industry-wide ADAS Working Group, which aims to ensure the aftermarket sector has that joined-up approach, including clearly defined standards. The group is currently developing a Code of Practice, published in draft form this month, for industry consultation.
“ADAS means a whole new skillset as technicians are now faced with not only having to correctly replace glass but also carry out systems diagnosis and recalibration. Understandably, vehicle manufacturers are looking closely at the issue of windscreen replacement in order to maintain the integrity of their vehicle systems. This, to a degree, has blurred the lines of responsibility when it comes to automotive glazing, as dealerships are likely to become more closely involved in the need for recalibration, particularly on models that require a static process.”
In addition to franchised networks, national accident repair chains and major AGRR companies, AGA believes there still more than 500 independent auto-glazing businesses operating across the UK, employing as many as 3,000 technicians. Spreading the word about the challenges the industry faces, as well as the solutions, including windscreen training for ADAS, is set to be a crucial activity during 2016 and this isn’t confined just to the UK market, as AGA is already in consultation with auto-glazing stakeholders in other European countries.
“Once the trade has the awareness, we can present training options to suit their own business requirements,” explained Maria. “Nothing stands still and for many years, automotive glazing was seen as a service operating at the fringe of the sector. Having to contend with ADAS now puts it front and centre but we are in this together as an industry both here and abroad and AGA for one, is exceedingly proud to be closely involved in driving this forward.”
Besides changes to processes, skills and standards, undoubtedly there will cost implications associated with this new technology, just as there was following the introduction of the PAS125 standard for body repairers, that’s since evolved into BS10125.
According to a number of replacement and repair firms, including AGA’s sister company, Essex Glass and Windscreens, all major insurers are reviewing their position in respect of motor insurance. Even before the introduction of ADAS, the complexity and even sheer volume of glass used in panoramic windscreens, for example, meant that the cost of windscreens was increasing. Certain replacement glass can command upwards of £800 so the existing model of having windscreen insurance excess on a driver’s main policy is thought to be fast approaching its end. Indeed, it’s claimed some insurers already refuse to cover such complex glass under the windscreen section, requiring a secondary glass policy instead.
In addition, AGA believes there is a strong possibility that insurers could also demand certification of re-calibration of windscreens, for the purpose of processing a claim, which will need to have been carried out by a fully qualified technician. The nature of such qualification is therefore the subject of debate within the ADAS Working Group.
What’s not in question is the unequivocal need for specialist competence. The dedicated auto-glazing route within the IMI Accreditation scheme is currently up for review and the development of a brand new Trailblazer Advanced Apprenticeship in automotive glazing, begun last autumn, has recently reached a milestone with a draft framework for the sector.
“We need to ensure we are fit for purpose now and into the future,” commented Leon Charlton, director of Essex Glass and Windscreens, which is co-ordinating the Trailblazer project. “There is much work to be done but we have a vision of what we need to achieve and much of that is about attracting new blood and ensuring people are educated and skilled to do the job correctly.”
Coming under Phase 5 of the Apprenticeship Trailblazers programme, in which businesses work together to determine new windscreen training standards applicable to their market, the ten businesses involved in the automotive glazing Trailblazer group collectively represent some 90% of all employees in the UK vehicle glazing sector. The new apprenticeship, expected to launch later this year, will encompass knowledge of ADAS and other vehicle technologies, such as electric and Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles.
Maria Charlton has the final word:
“Recognising what has been achieved in the bodyshop sector through education and standards, the same is necessary within the auto-glazing sector. New approaches to windscreen training in respect of ADAS will be a focus for 2016. It is undoubtedly a challenge and commercial interests will need to be managed, but the more people we can get involved to create momentum, the greater the opportunity to create solutions which will be of benefit to all, especially the most important group, the consumer.”