Andrew Marsh, FIMI, Engineering at Ezi-Methods looks at different modules of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and what to look out for when it comes to recycling them.
There are opportunities for recycling involving bumpers and sensors, but the most significant aspect is around the provenance of the source. Whilst we can debate the finer points of recycled bumper skins along the lines of ‘butterfly theory’, the pragmatic approach would be that as long as the bumper skin has no damage from impact or pre-existing impact damage, it is eminently re-usable. For the record, ‘butterfly theory’ revolves around apparently minor unconnected events with compounded effects that lead to major events. See HMRC.
There are opportunities, but we need to be careful.
These are typically fixed to the front bumper beam, behind the front bumper grille, behind the rear bumper attached to the body or attached to the rear bumper skin. There are multiple module generations, and so each module has very nearly a make/model/model year application. Re-sale depends on the impact damage – for example, peeling a module away from a heavy front-end impact could mean it has already been damaged. Removing a module from the opposite end of the impact damaged body would suggest a better prospect for re-use.
Until a few years ago, these were found exclusively attached to the windscreen. Unless the windscreen has suffered impact damage close to the LiDAR module location, these can be re-cycled. However, the first-generation devices are relatively inexpensive so retail value may be low.
BMW has rolled out the second-generation modules. Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group – these modules can be found behind the front bumper. The module looks like a RADAR module but may command quite a decent price due to rarity. If the vehicle has rear or side impact, then the module should be re-usable.
Located in the windscreen, these modules usually include data processing too. There are multiple generations of cameras, and some model ranges have had more than one type of camera fitted in this location. Tracing the module back to the original vehicle VIN and considering the damage in the area of the windscreen, is important for re-usability.
There are, of course, multiple locations for a ‘camera on a chip’: Less exotic devices can be found on the front or rear bumper skin, the boot lid/tailgate, front door mirrors and – for Tesla – the outer B pillar as well as front wing. However, these cameras have centralised data processing and so are relatively low-value items.
Here’s a typical array of sensors that can be found on Mercedes-Benz W177 A class, W247 B class, C/W118 CLA, W274 GLA and W247 GLB. Note: vehicles can have none, some or nearly all of these sensors fitted:
Seeing in the dark
After the initial fuss way back in the early 2000s, infrared-based night vision slowly disappeared thanks to technology limitations. Two decades later, there are two themes – the early cameras are rare, were always very expensive and should be quite challenging to find. They were typically found on the front bumper.
However, the infrared camera technology is back to help build ADAS capability towards SAE level 3 and beyond. So, expect module costs to decrease and the rate of fitment to increase on new vehicles.
The wild card
Selected vehicle manufacturers have used an integrated RADAR and CMOS camera in the windscreen, which means the windscreen and module are matched. Volvo led off with the SPA family (S60, V60, XC60, S90, V90, XC90), and there are a few other applications.
The biggest profit margins could be around ADAS modules fitted to vehicles that are now over ten years old, but the fitment rate is minuscule. For younger vehicles, the fitment rate is higher, and the ability to offer a bumper skin in the correct colour with no damage is an interesting proposal for collision repairers. The issue? Repairing or refinishing bumper skins is very limited due to the demands of the RADAR modules – if fitted – which sit behind them.
Those odd ‘little boxes’, wires and bumper skins are worth more by the day.