Improvements in automotive technology, including seat belts, airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control have significantly reduced accidents, fatalities and injuries to record low levels. These safety features have helped decrease the injury rate per vehicle-mile driven more than 50 percent since 1988, according to Mercury Insurance and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are a number of new safety technology features now being tested that are intended to reduce the number of accidents, which in turn would reduce the number of claims reported to insurance companies. And fewer claims could lead to lower premiums for policy holders.
Here’s a look at three new technologies that may soon be in a car near you:
Autonomous Cars: Today, companies ranging from Mercedes-Benz and Acura to technology companies like Waymo are testing cars that drive themselves, utilizing systems designed to protect passengers and prevent or limit accident damage. Earlier this year, Nissan and Renault chief Carlos Ghosn promised that Nissan would bring affordable autonomous cars to the public by 2020.
Some of the technology created for autonomous vehicles is already in use today and is paying dividends for drivers, passengers and insurance companies.
Collision Avoidance Systems: To be successful, autonomous cars will employ forward collision avoidance systems, which automatically engage the brakes and tighten seat belts when detecting a potential or imminent collision. Such systems have reduced property damage claims on some Mercedes and Acura models by 14%, while lowering bodily injury claims by 15%, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, which analyzes crash data for the insurance industry.
The forward collision avoidance system on the Volvo XC60 sport utility vehicle, dubbed City Safety, has seen even better results, reducing the types of crashes that occur in city traffic and parking lots. It slashed injury claims by more than 33%.
Assisted Driving: Assisted driving features are closer to reality. These technologies include lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and automatic braking. The lane-keeping function steers the car so it stays in its lane even as the highway changes direction. Adaptive cruise control can apply the brakes or throttle to maintain speed while keeping the car a safe distance from other cars. Automatic braking applies the brakes if it senses your car is tailgating or a collision is imminent.
A fully automated car, utilizing all of these technologies would require no human intervention to accelerate or steer the vehicle. The only requirement for the driver would be to close the doors and fasten the seat belts.
What does all this mean for auto insurance? Advanced technologies have the potential to lower claims costs for insurers by reducing the number of accidents and severity of injuries and property damage, which translates to lower premiums for consumers.