Technology in vehicles – is it realising its full potential?
Today’s vehicles are equipped with the type of technology that only a few years ago would have seemed to come straight from a sci-fi movie.
From automatic parallel parking to eyesight tech that maintains distances between vehicles, there are an array of cameras and sensors built-in to many modern vehicles that are meant to help us drive more safely and have fewer accidents.
Reversing cameras and sensors, automatic emergency braking and lane changing technology are also increasingly common inclusions on vehicles that roll off the production line.
However, it turns out those Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) maybe aren’t having the desired effect.
“When you look at the claims data for a three year period, logic would suggest the newer the car, the less incidents there’d be from reversing, changing lanes or running into the back of another vehicle – things that a lot of the technology is meant to fix,” says Ken Arthur, National Risk Manager at QBE.
“In fact, the opposite happens – the ratio of claims arising from incidents in those three categories increase the newer the vehicle is.”
Something doesn’t add up.
The over-reliance on in-car technology
The technology that’s embedded in vehicles, of course, relies on drivers using it correctly and effectively – it’s supposed to enhance driving and provide additional information, not replace any aspect of what a driver would typically do.
“When we conduct driver training, we often see people reversing and looking just at the screen in the car, not out of the windows to see for themselves,” says Rob DiPierdomenico, National Risk Manager at QBE.
“A lot of drivers are getting into the habit of relying on the technology rather than their own skills and observations, and increasingly accidents are occurring.”
Another issue in a workplace scenario is the chopping and changing between vehicles if drivers work for a fleet company – which don’t all necessarily have the same technology. Reversing without looking and relying on a beep to prompt you to stop may work sometimes, however it won’t if the vehicle doesn’t have reversing sensors.
“A lot of people can be on autopilot when driving for work, they’re rushing to appointments, they’re on calls, they’ve got this technology and they can become blasé,” says DiPierdomenico.
“The technology is there as a system. It’s there to help – it’s not a replacement for safe driving.”
The claims and business impact
Previously, fixing a dent to a bumper or replacing a windscreen was a relatively straightforward job. Today – with sensors and cameras embedded – they can be costly exercises from both a time and a cost perspective.
“A bump is no longer just a bump,” says Arthur. “What previously could be repaired with a hammer and a bit of putty now requires a lot more time.”
“I’ve seen repairs for what seemed relatively minor damage to a car’s bumper, grill and spoiler come in at over $20,000 – primarily because of the technology that needs to be replaced, reprogrammed and recalibrated.”
And of course, as the value of claims increases, there’s a knock-on effect to premiums and excesses, too.
Having fleet off the road naturally causes problems for businesses, particularly those whose business is transportation.
“We say that every $1000 spent to fix a vehicle equates to an average of $5000 lost in real business terms,” says Arthur. “Businesses with HGVs estimate that figure to be around $15,000 to $18,000.
“You’ve got downtime, the time spent in dealing with the claim, all of the indirect costs to consider, and they quickly add up.”
In addition, it’s important to consider the other impacts on the business, too. From workers’ compensation claims and time off work to the reputational damage of dented vehicles driving around or vehicles being involved in accidents – not to mention the increasing premiums and/or excesses – and the risks continue to mount.
There are, however, a number of practical things businesses can do to educate and train drivers and reduce accident incidents – and QBE can help brokers and customers with this.
Working together to reduce vehicle claims
The QBE Commercial Motor Risk team regularly works with businesses to help reduce their vehicle-related risks by looking at four key areas: pre-employment, induction, time of an accident and any ongoing initiatives.
“We sit down with customers to cover those four key areas and work through strategies to help educate and train drivers at each stage, including driver training,” says DiPierdomenico.
“Brokers can have those initial conversations around what the customer is doing in those four areas, and then bring us in to improve what they’re doing and most importantly how they’re implementing it. Ultimately, we can help reduce accidents. But there’s no one, simple solution.”
Discussions with individual businesses often reveal incident-causing practices that can be resolved by a small change in procedure.
“For example, we looked at the data of one company and found the vast majority of crashes happened late in the afternoon,” says Arthur. “They had a policy that meant as soon as the drivers finished their jobs they could return the vehicle and go home. We found that they were all rushing back to the depot to make sure they had an early finish! The policy was changed to reduce the ‘benefit’ of getting back to the depot early and accidents reduced significantly.”
While technology in cars is extremely beneficial, it’s only of use when used correctly. By working with customers to identify and manage causes of accidents, and equipping drivers with the training and education to drive those vehicles safely, businesses can reduce the number of accidents they have – as well as minimising the other indirect impacts a vehicle accident has on a business.
QBE risk specialists can help a business with fleet vehicles reduce the number and severity of accidents by providing internal management changes and solutions to help drivers to drive more safely on the roads. They also have access to the latest insurance trend data.