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Driver assistance systems: a red light for the private hire industry?

Conservative estimates predict that by 2020, semi-autonomous cars will be on the UK roads, following a series of successful driverless trials, and by 2030, fully driverless vehicles will be on the roads.
The technology is complex with cameras controlling everything from braking, cruise control, lane departure and correction, collision avoidance, auto-parking and proximity monitors, to mention just a few current standard fitments.
While the technology comes with many obvious benefits, we must be aware of its pitfalls – not least in the private hire industry, where vehicles being taken off the road costs businesses time and money.
A recent repair we dealt with at LandFlight brings the issue into sharp focus.
A vehicle clipped the wheel of one of our Mercedes saloons while it was parked outside a hotel and while we initially thought the damage was minimal, the diagnosis was somewhat different. A geometry check showed the steering alignment was out and needed re-setting.
What would have previously been a simple repair became a complex one, as the vehicle’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) also needed recalibrating, which meant it was off the road for three weeks.
The more complex vehicles become, the more challenging they are to maintain. It’s definitely something we have to take seriously – gone are the days where it is a simple repair, and this is complicated further by the fact that repair centres hold fewer and fewer spares.
Damaged bumpers and windscreens fitted with camera technology cannot simply be filled or repaired without re-calibrating the vehicle’s on-board computers to ensure they read the road and ride correctly.
Without wishing to sound dramatic, the reason for this is clear. There are liability and warranty risks if vehicles are repaired and not properly calibrated in line with the VM’s own specifications.
When vehicles are returned to us, we trust they have been repaired to the standard required by the manufacturer. The private hire industry can ill afford a situation where this doesn’t happen and the car is involved in an accident – either on a human or reputational level.

Danny Matthews
Director, LandFlight

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