We’ve come a long way from ABS

Anti-lock brakes (ABS) were likely many people’s first encounter with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), at least for people of a certain age. 

Who can forget their first panic stop in an ABS-equipped vehicle: The pulsing wheels. The wondering if that’s supposed to be happening? Should I pump the brakes? Didn’t that advertisement in Car and Driver say don’t pump the brakes? Alright, I won’t pump the brakes! Phew. Hey, I didn’t steer into the ditch. It worked! 

A lot can happen in half a second. (And we wonder why people are skeptical of the alphabet soup of ADAS systems we have today. Marketing professionals take note.) Don’t even get us started on stability control.

As we explore the journey from ABS to advanced ADAS, the role of auto aftermarket M&A in driving innovation and accessibility in these systems becomes increasingly significant.

ADAS Systems: From Convenience to Necessity

ADAS covers a lot of areas, but distilled down to its purest essence, its purpose in life is really about preventing you from crashing, or if you do crash, making it less bad. Some modern systems might strike you as more convenience-orientated, but “don’t crash” is still the primary remit.

A random sampling of ADAS systems from the recent past results in a list something like this:

  • Adaptive Braking Technology
  • Active Brake Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System
  • Adaptive High Beam Control
  • Adaptive Light Control
  • Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Automatic Parking System
  • Automotive Night Vision
  • Back-over Prevention
  • Blind Spot Detection
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Blind Spot Warning
  • Camera Monitor System
  • Collision Avoidance System
  • Collision Detection Warning
  • Collision Imminent Braking
  • Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Driver Drowsiness Detection
  • Driver Fatigue Warning
  • Driver Monitoring System
  • Drowsy Driver Warning
  • Emergency Driver Assistant
  • Forward Collision Avoidance
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Glare-free High Beam
  • Head Lamp Assist
  • Head-up-Display
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Intelligent High Beam Control
  • Intelligent Parking Assist System
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation
  • Lane Centering Assist
  • Lane Change Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Detection
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Moving Object Detection
  • Night View Assist
  • Object Detection
  • Optical Surface Dirt
  • Parking Assistance
  • Parking Line Detection
  • Parking Slot Marking Detection
  • Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Pedestrian Detection
  • Rear Collision Warning
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Semi-Autonomous Driving
  • Surround View Camera
  • Surround View Park Assist
  • Traffic Jam Assist
  • Traffic Light Recognition
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • Turning Assistant
  • Ultrasonic Park Assist
  • Wrong-Way Driving Alert

Mandatory ADAS Features: A Look into the Future

The U.S. made ABS mandatory in 2013. Backup cameras became mandatory in 2018. The process to make Automatic Emergency Braking standard began in 2023. Which of the above are going to become mandatory in the next 20 years? Can we get an “amen” for auto-dimming, smart headlights? Maybe it’ll be something completely new.

One thing is for certain, and that it’s important to keep all these ADAS systems calibrated? You could say it’s a matter of life and death.

Aftermarket Calibration

Most systems are powered by a combination of software and sensors, which can be of the ultrasonic, lidar, radar, and camera variety. It won’t be uncommon to have multiples of each sensor type. The Polestar 2 for example has three radar units, five cameras and twelve ultrasonic sensors. 

GM’s latest Ultra Cruise uses 7 long-range cameras, 4 short-range radars, 3 4D long-range radars, and a lidar unit behind the windshield. Some cars are adding microphones to detect emergency vehicles, or moisture sensors to detect wet road conditions. The point is, there’s a lot to maintain.

Considering the complex nature of ADAS calibration, the growing importance of auto aftermarket M&A activities in ensuring the availability and affordability of these services is undeniable.

The Growing Market for ADAS Calibration Services

And since accidents happen, calibrating all those sensors is going to be a big business. Who needs to be able to calibrate those sensors? Body shops, repair shops, wheel/tire shops, glass shops. Basically, everybody. 

Whoever works on cars, trucks, SUVs, tractors, semis, 18 wheelers, and so on, needs to be able to ensure your ADAS is calibrated correctly when you leave. Straightening a fender and then telling somebody they need to go to the dealer to re-calibrate a sensor is not going to cut it.

Even a short drive to another shop with an out of alignment sensor can be risky. Improper camera alignment could steer you into oncoming traffic. An out of whack radar could misjudge the distance between objects. 

You might stop when you need to go, or you might go when you need to stop. Assuming you can defeat or turn off the faulty system is a recipe for disaster. Even if you don’t think so, your insurance company will.

A February 2023 survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed half of respondents had issues with ADAS features following repairs. And a big chunk of those issues came up after the repair involved the windshield. The survey also shows ADAS works and reduces accidents. The challenge is to convince people it’s a bad idea to just turn off the ADAS and paying for recalibration is worth the expense.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve journeyed through the fascinating evolution of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), it’s clear that the road ahead is both exciting and complex. The transformation from simple anti-lock brakes to a myriad of sophisticated systems like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control is not just about technological advancement; it’s about making our roads safer and driving experiences more enjoyable.

But here’s the key: as these systems become more advanced and integrated into our daily drives, the need for precise calibration and maintenance escalates. This is where the auto aftermarket plays an essential role. 

Considering the intricate nature of these systems, their calibration isn’t just a technicality—it’s a necessity for safety. And it’s here that Capstone Automotive steps in. As the only M&A advisor exclusively serving aftermarket and autotech companies, we understand the nuances of this dynamic field like no other.

We’re not just observers in this landscape; we’re active participants and facilitators. Whether it’s offering buy-side or sell-side advisory, aiding in funding for growth, or providing accurate valuations, we’re at the forefront of shaping the future of automotive safety and technology. Our expertise is not just in understanding where the market is today, but in anticipating where it will be tomorrow.

Ultimately, the continuous evolution of ADAS systems and their calibration demands will likely be shaped significantly by trends in the auto aftermarket M&A landscape. That’s the arena we thrive in. We’re here to ensure that as these technologies grow and evolve, companies in this space have the support and guidance they need to navigate these changes successfully.

So, whether you’re a business in the thick of the automotive aftermarket or an autotech innovator looking to make your mark, remember, Capstone Automotive is your partner in this journey. Together, let’s drive towards a future where roads are safer, driving is smarter, and the innovation potential is limitless. Let’s shift gears into a safer, more efficient automotive future.

Get in touch today.