Toronto, Ontario – On July 28, representatives from three major automotive coating companies met at an online Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association webinar to discuss the future of automotive coatings in the age of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS)–effectively, radar systems that serve as the eyes of self-driving cars.
For the uninitiated, these coatings are the opposite of coatings on stealth aircraft. They amplify the signals used by automated systems to identify nearby vehicles, reducing the chance of a collision.
Daniel Benton, Global Product Director of Color Marketing at Axalta Coating Systems, Andy Hysi, eBusiness Manager at AkzoNobel and Jeff Wildman, North American Manager of OEM & Industry Relations at BASF discussed the challenges of developing OEM coatings in compliance with government and ADAS regulations, the growing list of restricted materials in paints, creating ADAS compatible coatings and eco-friendly requirements. As most repairers know, changes from a company can easily trickle down to the individual shop.
“I think you’ll see some innovations from OEMs. Traditional metal flakes might turn into something else that gives hue shifting and colour changes,” said Benton. “Another thing we’re seeing is the issue of layering which makes repair a little more challenging when colour matching and layering.”
Benton’s suggestion is to pay extra attention to OEM instructions. While some talented repairers use their own techniques to apply visually identical coatings, following OEM instructions has more to do with safety and ADAS readability than mere aesthetics.
It’s not just application techniques that have become more technically demanding though, thanks to the new technologies involved. They might have unforeseen ripple effects with regards to customer interactions, Wildman explained. “OEMs are really trying to develop colours that are unique for them. When you look at a vehicle today, your estimator should check the colour code. If you have a limited edition toner, it may take a week or longer to get it.”
Those toners aren’t necessarily cheap, said Wildman, describing the sticker shock of a repairer informing customers about the need for custom paints to be purchased a week after the car enters the shop – rather than at the start of the process.
As far as automotive coatings have advanced to accommodate for ADAS technologies, Wildman and Benton were doubtful that technological marvels like ‘blackest black coatings,’ regenerating paints or even energy gathering paints would become mainstream. They might demonstrate innovation but would need time to become cheap and durable enough for the average consumer.