Study: Autonomous Safety Systems Cut Down on Insurance Claims

Certain new automotive technologies have measurable impacts on driver safety, as cars equipped with autonomous braking and adaptive headlight features are showing the biggest reduction in the number of crashes and claims, according to the latest study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

The study’s analysis of crash patterns, released Tuesday, also found that technologies that automatically warn drivers drifting across lanes show higher crash rates, while park assist and blind-spot detection technologies haven’t shown much of an impact at all.

HLDI identified the clearest impact on claims patterns under property damage liability insurance coverage, offered by car insurance companies to cover a car’s damage to another car, and collision insurance coverage, which covers the insured car itself. The study used several Acura, Buick, Mercedes, Mazda and Volvo car models for its study, each of them equipped with technologies that are currently available as optional purchases for motorists.

Automatic Braking Particularly Effective in Forward Collision Avoidance Systems

The study found that technologies warning drivers of incoming collisions in front of them cut the number of property damage liability claims by a noticeable amount. When such systems come with automatic brakes that aid the driver in stopping the vehicle, the frequency of those claims were reduced even further.

Acura and Mercedes models showed the biggest reductions in property damage insurance claim frequency, which was 14 percent lower for vehicles with forward collision warning and autonomous braking compared to those that had neither.

Forward collision avoidance systems without automatic braking showed “more modest effects” on property damage claims, according to the study, which added that it may be because “they rely on drivers to respond appropriately to warnings and can’t directly avoid crashes.”

Collision and injury claims across all models saw smaller reductions from the technology.

Adaptive Headlights Have Unanticipated Impact

Adaptive headlights are a relatively new technology that directs the aim of headlights according to the driver’s steering.

Property damage claims saw as much as a 10 percent reduction across all models with the technology, a decrease that the study called “surprising” because most crashes that occur during nighttime hours involve only one car.

The number of injury claims also fell significantly.

“Researchers had expected that the biggest effects from adaptive headlights would be on single-vehicle crashes reflected in collision coverage,” the study stated, adding that the frequency of collision claims in cars with adaptive headlights fell by a marginal amount.

Lane-Departure Warning Showed Negative Effects

Not only did the study identify higher frequencies of both property damage and collision insurance claims in cars equipped with technology that warned drivers who are departing from their lane, but such systems also were linked to more injuries for occupants of the vehicle.

Those spikes in insurance claims were identified in Buick and Mercedes models. Meanwhile, Volvo vehicles with the feature saw small reductions that researchers partially attributed to the fact that those models also had forward collision systems with automatic braking.

“Lane-departure warning may end up saving lives down the road, but so far these particular versions aren’t preventing insurance claims,” Moore stated. “It may be that drivers are getting too many false alarms, which could make them tune out the warnings or turn them off completely. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the systems seem to increase claim rates, but we need to gather more data to see if that’s truly happening.”

Studies Explored Public’s Receptiveness to New Technologies

Recent studies gauging market receptiveness of car technologies found that the public is largely warming to both new safety and infotainment features.

A federal analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released in May showed that the vast majority of drivers who used car-to-car technology had a “highly favorable opinion of its safety benefits.” Such technologies utilize wireless systems that allow vehicles to “talk” to other vehicles and issue warnings to drivers that include dangers at an intersection, blind spots and possible forward collisions.

An April study from J.D. Power and Associates measured consumers’ interest in technologies before and after the price tag was revealed to them. Those surveyed showed highest pre-price interest in light-emitting diode headlights.

In their recent report, HLDI researchers said that they will study claims data related to other new technologies in the fast-growing field of vehicle safety features as they enter the market and are used by drivers more often. Such technologies are night vision assist, which employs infrared technology to illuminate the path ahead for roadway objects, and fatigue warnings that alert tired motorists.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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