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More than 36,000 traffic fatalities were recorded in 2019 and 2018, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures. And COVID-19 lockdowns didn’t prevent that number from rising even higher in 2020, as NHTSA data shows a surprising uptick in traffic-related deaths during the first nine months of the year in comparison to 2019.
Advances in technology have played a key role in protecting passengers over the last 40 years, and they could play an even more central role in reducing the numbers above, if only insurance catches up to them.
The vast number of vehicle crashes were caused by human error, according to a 2018 NHTSA report. Advanced driver-assistance system technology, however, has the power to compensate for human error. LexisNexis research published in June 2020 found that vehicles equipped with ADAS technology demonstrated a reduction of 19 percent in vehicle damage frequency and 27 percent in passenger injury.
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As vehicle safety and, subsequently, ADAS integrations have become increasingly popular with consumers, companies have sprouted up, each with their own unique solution to assisting drivers. The Israel-based Mobileye, one of the most renowned ADAS and autonomous driving tech companies in the world, uses a mounted camera to map the road environment and its EyeQ chip to process the sensor data, providing a variety of road safety features like lane departure warnings and forward collision warnings. Continental Automotive utilizes lidar, radar and a camera sensor to offer a 360 scope of the road to the driver, and provides brake assistance, blind spot detection, and lane change assist among other features.
On the two-wheeler side, Ride Vision has followed in the footsteps of its four-wheeler counterpart by developing a unique solution for motorcycles, which previously did not have the same degreee of complexity. Ride Vision uses two front- and rear-mounted cameras for data input, which feeds into a computing unit that smartly accounts for the unique maneuvers of a two-wheeled vehicle. The company offers many of the standard types of features for riders like forward collision warnings, dangerous overtake alerts and distance-keeping warnings. An additional feature allows them to record the ride data, which can be submitted to a participating insurer for premium discounts.
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With a plethora of options to integrate more ADAS technology, why are the extra ADAS technologies underutilized?
One possibility could be that drivers simply don’t understand the ADAS features of the car or the integrations as well as they should. Erie Insurance commissioned a nationwide survey of American drivers, many of whom said they found their vehicles built-in ADAS features annoying or they simply preferred having more control of the vehicle for some features, and they disabled these functions. Yet when asked, “Will you want a car with any of these features?,” many still responded with a “yes.”
The reasons are far broader
We can go back to the Ride Vision insurance initiative example to understand more why riders and drivers are not adopting ADAS technology as much beyond what already comes built into their vehicles. Telling consumers that “safety is important” is not enough; there needs to be some sort of financial incentive. Mobileye, for example, gives us one.
In 2019, Mobileye collaborated with the Israeli government to offer Israelis a U.S. $415 tax discount on their vehicle purchase if they were to integrate Mobileye. In 2017, multinational insurance giant AIG offered Israeli drivers up to a 20 percent discount on their premiums if they integrated the company’s technology. But while these institutions understood the value of tech in reducing accidents and took a leadership role in incentivizing adoption, most insurance companies are lagging behind, for a number of reasons.
First, insurance companies face a conundrum between offering discounts on premiums to drivers and riders—thereby potentially losing millions in revenue—and reducing the odds of accidents, which means they have to pay thousands in damages less frequently. Moreover, it’s more costly to compensate a victim for a vehicle that has ADAS tech integrated than not.
Second, and the bigger impediment to insurance-linked ADAS adoption is understanding how to evaluate ADAS for insurance premiums. Insurance companies are struggling to create frameworks for how to assess the effectiveness of any ADAS technology and how it performs in relation to competing technologies; how it can be appraised in order to determine what the appropriate discount should be for a driver using ADAS tech.
Companies like Swiss Re are at the forefront of trying to understand how to find ways to promote adoption and improve road safety. In 2018, Swiss Re and the BMW Group built the Swiss Re ADAS risk score. It matches technology already fitted in vehicles with vast amounts of claims data to give a clear picture of the impact of these safety systems. More affordable premiums can drive up road safety and ultimately improve resilience.
The company recently ran a workshop with Israel-based open innovator SOSA, which works to promote innovation within companies, streamlining processes so they are capable of tackling challenges such as these.
For now, insurance companies are stuck behind the curve, but through more research and investment, insurance will begin to find ways to create policies that cater to driver’s custom ADAS preferences and what technology they’re using.
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