A Second SEMA Garage
By Mike Spagnola
The SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California, was conceived as a comprehensive product development center to address the needs of manufacturer members. It was equipped with state-of-the-art tools and equipment and staffed with expert personnel. Since it opened almost nine years ago, hundreds of members have taken advantages of the facility’s many services. These include access to OEM CAD data, 3-D printing and scanning, emissions testing, and measuring sessions. Even while running two shifts, the facility currently has a backlog in the emissions lab as more manufacturers conduct emissions certification procedures.
The productivity of the Diamond Bar facility and the pace of automotive technology prompted further investment, and so the SEMA Board approved a plan to build another SEMA Garage in the Detroit area. It’s been a full year since work began on that plan—an ambitious, complex build. A major milestone came in January, when riggers unpacked two semi-truck loads (nine crates in all) of emissions dynamometer equipment.
The new facility, located in Plymouth, Michigan, will offer better proximity to SEMA members in the Midwest region and create greater throughput on the emissions-compliance front. It will house equipment that will offer the ability to test both two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Importantly, some 5,000 sq. ft. of the 45,000-sq.-ft. building will be devoted exclusively to research on advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), the newest element in the association’s work to make technology accessible to members. In that portion of the Detroit garage, manufacturers will have access to OEM-quality equipment that will allow member manufacturers to identify and correct hardware and software that might be affected when a vehicle is modified. Dynamic testing will also be performed to confirm recalibration processes.
Even as ADAS systems are now becoming ubiquitous on new cars and trucks, specific processes to go about readjusting them after modifying a vehicle are not widely documented. Different manufacturers have developed proprietary systems independently, so testing and recalibration processes will need to be researched vehicle by vehicle.
The collision and repair industry is working on identifying how to put an ADAS-equipped vehicle back together after a crash, but as it stands, no organization has addressed the challenge of learning how to make ADAS systems compatible with newer vehicles after different tires, modified suspensions, custom bumpers, mirrors, grilles or other modifications are made.
The immediate plan is to conduct systematic research on two widely modified vehicles that have two completely different types of ADAS technology. As time goes on, other vehicles will be added, building a library of best-practices information that will be available to members. It’s groundbreaking work that needs to be done now, before there are more regulations, in order to stay ahead of this fast-moving technology.
Strategically located in an area where many tier-1 OEM suppliers are situated, the Detroit facility will offer a long-term opportunity to build and expand on relationships with carmakers and major suppliers, helping to create avenues for collaboration on vehicle personalization.
There will be more challenges in the future, some perhaps even more daunting. Electrification, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence are all on the horizon. When the Detroit SEMA Garage opens later this year, it will represent another step toward addressing the challenges we see now and those in the future. It will more than double the industry’s capacity to keep up with the latest technology and help manufacturers develop new, exciting products.
You’ll be hearing more about the Detroit Garage this summer. Stay tuned!