Driver assistance systems may be forcing up the cost of claims with specialist repairs but, as Sam Barrett reports, the technology should reduce the number of catastrophic personal injuries
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems are making the roads safer. But when these systems require repairs, dealing with this technology can push up claims costs significantly.
These programmes rely on cameras and sensors to understand road conditions, identify potential hazards and either warn the driver or take control of the vehicle to avoid an accident. But with these sensors embedded in parts of the vehicle such as the windscreen, bumpers and wing mirrors, it’s no longer a simple case of replacing the part. “If you change the part, you have to recalibrate the cameras and sensors to ensure they function correctly,” explains Dr Chris Davies, head of technical superiority for Belron, the parent company of Autoglass. “In some countries, the switch from summer to winter tyres can be enough to affect them.”
As a result, these previously simple claims can now be very expensive. John Hoey, motor broker at JLT Specialty, says he recently dealt with a claim for a client who needed a new windscreen on a BMW 7 Series. “They had to use a BMW garage as they were the only ones with the right windscreen. Fitting and recalibrating the sensors resulted in a £1500 claim,” he explains.
Adding to the financial pain is the fact that there’s no standardised approach to calibration. Different manufacturers have their own systems, making it an expensive investment for garages. Dr Davies says the equipment required for calibration costs around £10,000. “It is possible to have one tool that works for every manufacturer but an independent garage might find this prohibitively expensive,” he explains.
As a consequence, sometimes it’s necessary for a recalibration to be carried out at a second garage. For example, Tim Spreadbury, head of claims at Carrot Insurance, says that where a windscreen needs to be replaced that contains this type of technology, an official OEM glass replacement is provided in the first instance then, once the repair is completed, the customer is directed to their local dealership for windscreen recalibration. “To help us control costs and ensure any recalibration is completed by a qualified engineer, we receive one invoice from our supplier Auto Windscreens, which includes the cost of the glass and the recalibration,” he adds.
- Adaptive cruise control: Similar to cruise control but also monitors the vehicle in front to ensure a safe distance between the two.
- Blind spot warning: Alerts the driver to vehicles being in the blind spot.
- Driver alerts: Designed to detect signs of tiredness and warn the driver.
- Forward collision warning: Detects obstacles and alerts the driver.
- Front side view cameras: Uses cameras in the front bumper to help with tight manoeuvres.
- Lane keep assist systems: A camera in the windscreen tracks lane markings and steers the driver to the centre of the lane.
- Night vision: Relies on infrared sensors to detect pedestrians and alert the driver.
- Parking aids: Includes sensors and self-driving functionality to control parking manoeuvres.
Steering the customer journey
White says the key to a positive customer experience is understanding the nature of the claim from outset. “Brokers need to understand what ADAS technology is involved and highlight it to the insurer as quickly as possible,” she says. “This can save a lot of time and repetition.”
James Wood, claims control executive at Jelf, agrees. He says that brokers should flag up where recalibration is required. “This will encourage the use of repairers who have the correct calibration equipment, which minimises disruption to the customer.”
“If you change the part, you have to recalibrate the cameras and sensors to ensure they function correctly…In some countries, the switch from summer to winter tyres can be enough to affect them”
As an example, he points to repairers who have signed up to the Thatcham ADAS code of practice, which sets out guidance on recalibrating these systems. “They can manage the whole repair process seamlessly,” he explains. “Where the repairer can’t do this, they should advise the customer of a third party who can carry out the work and seek a signed declaration to show the customer understands the risk of relying on the functionality of ADAS until recalibration has taken place.”
For some brokers, ensuring the recalibration is carried out is regarded as their responsibility. As an example, when Carrot Insurance has to pass a vehicle to a second garage, it makes sure the work is completed. Spreadbury explains: “Correct recalibration following the replacement of a windscreen is not a ‘nice to have’, but a necessity. As a broker, the responsibility for customer safety lies with us so, if the repair isn’t completed within two weeks, we’ll contact the driver and prompt them to arrange their recalibration.”
Putting the brakes on
Deterring policyholders from having this work done is certainly a retrograde step, ultimately affecting the insurer as well as the policyholder. As ADAS becomes more commonplace on the UK’s roads, it should help to cut claims costs by reducing the risk of personal injuries. “A catastrophic personal injury claim can cost an insurer millions of pounds,” says Jason Livingstone, head of motor at Higos Insurance Services. “If these types of claims can be prevented, it will make the additional expense associated with ADAS repairs seem pretty irrelevant.”
Even without taking large personal injury settlements into account, ADAS’s ability to reduce claims incidence means that brokers are also keen to promote take up. “When we look at a client’s claims pattern and there are lots of low speed manoeuvring incidents, we recommend they invest in ADAS such as parking sensors and automatic parking,” says Hoey. “The cost of repairing these systems is higher but they should reduce the overall spend by preventing most of these claims.”
Given the drive for safety, ADAS is becoming increasingly common. Dr Davies says that every year he sees a doubling of the number of jobs that require recalibration and, with EU legislation pushing through additional safety features, it’s expected that by 2020, more than 40% of new vehicles will have at least two types of ADAS.
With benefits for motorists, insurers and the wider society, it’s important the insurance industry addresses the challenges that repairing vehicles with ADAS brings.
This article is care of www.insuranceage.co.uk/
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