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Susan Tompor: High-tech features on new cars drive up auto insurance rates

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Home and Consumer News

"You would like to think that all this additional technology would reduce cost," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Cox Automotive Inc. brands including car-shopping website Autotrader and researcher Kelley Blue Book.

But Brauer, who visited the Detroit auto show lastday week, said insurers still need to evaluate how consumers are using new technology and what could be leading to higher claims.

For example, he said, the introduction of antilock brakes in the 1980s didn't necessarily reduce accidents initially, as some drivers tended to drive more aggressively because they were banking that antilock brakes would prevent an accident.

Right now, he said, distracted driving from texting, cell phone usage and other sources is outweighing some benefits of newer safety features. Drivers who aren't paying attention don't react quickly even when alerted to change course by advance safety equipment.

"Ultimately, you will see a reduction with accidents," Brauer said. So while forward collision warning systems, for example, can scan the road ahead and alert the driver to take action to avoid an accident, repairing such systems after an accident will drive up the severity of collision claims by about 2 percent, said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The complexity of the repairs goes up in part because sensors are mounted in the front bumper and must be repaired and may need to be recalibrated after an accident.


"The insurance industry is very focused on the repair costs associated with these new technologies," Moore said.

"When the reduction in the crash risk associated with any advanced driver assistance system is greater than the increased repair costs then insurance premiums will likely go down," Moore said.

Backup cameras, for example, will be required on most new vehicles beginning May 1. Most automakers have already begun putting backup cameras on new vehicles as standard.

Rear cameras -- introduced on model year 2002 vehicles -- are expected to be on more than half of registered vehicles in 2021, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.


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