The biging of the end; self-drive cars. Pitched it like as safety and money saver…!
By Doug Newcomb
Active safety systems will prevent more accidents, and could cause less to be spent on collision repair.
Passive safety features have been a huge success in reducing deaths and injuries in car accidents. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) estimates that seat belts saved close to 150,000 lives between 1975 and 2001, and airbags saved more than 8,000 lives from 1987 to 2001.
But as effective as passive safety systems have been, they only reduce the chance that drivers and passengers will be killed or seriously injured after an accident occurs. The next phase of auto-safety technology—driver-assistance systems that issue audible and visual warnings and can even take over steering and braking—are designed to prevent accidents before they happen.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), if all passenger vehicles were equipped with four driver-assist systems—lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and adaptive headlights—approximately 1 in 3 fatal crashes and 1 out of 5 injury crashes potentially could be prevented or the damage mitigated. And as many as 1.9 million crashes could be prevented or mitigated each year.
The fact that driver-assist systems have the potential to dramatically reduce roadway deaths and injury is good news for everyone on the road, including pedestrians and bicyclists. But that they also cut down on the number of auto insurance claims, as well as the cost of collision repair, may be bad news for insurance companies and auto body shops in the business—especially as the technology becomes more common.
Driver-assist systems originally debuted on high-priced cars, but are now becoming available on more and lower-cost vehicles (such as the new Mazda3 and latest Subaru models with the EyeSight option). And they’re also preventing more types of accidents. For example, Volvo is adding several new driver assists to the all-new XC90 crossover that’s due out later this year, including one that expands the company’s City Safety suite of innovative accident-prevention technologies.
City Safety was initially designed to prevent less dangerous, but still costly, low-speed collisions by autonomously applying the brakes to keep a Volvo from rear-ending a vehicle ahead in stop-and-go urban traffic. Volvo later added pedestrian and then bicyclist detection to City Safety. The new XC90 will be the first vehicle to feature automatic braking when the driver turns in front of an oncoming vehicle at an intersection, such as when the view ahead is obscured by a large truck, and potentially prevent side-impact collisions.
Driver Assist Saves Lives—and Money
If the new Volvo XC90 and other cars are any indication, more driver-assist technologies are coming, and they will eventually lead to self-driving cars. But besides saving lives, the systems may also save car owners cash spent on car repairs after a crash, to the detriment the collision repair industry.
That’s the conclusion of a recent analysis by the consulting and research firm Carlisle & Company using data from IIHS and its companion research agency, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), on the potential success of driver-assist systems to prevent accidents. Carlisle pointed out that HLDI predicts approximately 20 percent of all registered vehicles will have forward-collision warning systems by 2020, and that this could prevent more than 3 million car crashes. But it will also put a major dent in the collision-repair businesses.
Carlisle predicted that by 2022, “15 percent of all collision-repair jobs will be avoided…along with commensurate reductions in the markets that are associated with these repairs,” including aftermarket parts companies and other suppliers. It also pointed out that between 35 and 40 percent of automakers’ parts revenue comes from collision repair, so car companies would take an even bigger hit.
Government mandates of driver assists (think air bags and ABS) would accelerate the adoption of the technology—and the possible decline in revenue decline for the collision repair business. The European New Car Assessment Program, the European equivalent of our National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, already requires passenger vehicles to offer emergency autonomous braking in order to receive the agency’s highest safety rating. With such a government mandate here in the U.S., Carlisle said that by 2022 collision repairs could experience a 20 percent decline.
And while business at auto body shops may slow down along with the rate of accidents, and HDLI predicts that they’ll also result in fewer insurance claims, it also found that insurance premiums may actually rise because of the increased cost of replacing expensive cameras and sensors used by driver-assist systems when a car with them does crash. But eventually maybe you won’t have to insure—or even own—a self-driving car.