The number of drivers on Canadian roads is now around 8 million and rising every day, which means more and more opportunities for accidents and injuries. However, with more driver-assist technologies to help prevent accidents and, ultimately, injuries these opportunities should be decreasing. Are they? Well, not yet but there is hope.
“We have cars with a lot more technology coming into the market”, says Aviva's Greg Somerville. Automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane departure warning are among the driver assistance technologies available on some vehicles today. “However, until we have a significant portion of the cars on the road with that capability, the cost to repair those vehicles hasn’t caught up with the benefits that we are going to derive from them as an industry and as a society.”, Somerville told Canadian Underwriter recently. This is because vehicles with driver-assist technologies will continue to be hit by vehicles without such technologies, Somerville warned.
Semi-autonomous vehicles have computer systems that “offer assistance such as emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, and blind spot warnings” wrote Paul Kovacs, executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and president and chief executive officer of Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corporation, in a paper two years ago commissioned by the Insurance Institute of Canada. When a collision occurs, the cost to repair a vehicle kiovwith automation is “expected to be higher than for conventional vehicles,” Kovacs wrote in the paper, titled Automated Vehicles: Implications for the insurance industry in Canada.
Sensors – such as cameras – that feed information to computers in semi-autonomous vehicles “are only effective when they are located in areas, like the side mirrors, that may be prone to damage, even from minor collisions,” Kovacs wrote.
Addressing the entire vehicle safety system after an auto collision, and not just one component like a sensor, may be contributing to longer auto repair times and higher costs for insurers. “It will be more expensive to repair a vehicle with sensors and a computer than it will be to repair a vehicle without these driver assistance features,” Kovacs wrote in his paper in 2016.
The Good News
“The problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around.", said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2014
Over the next 10 years, conventional vehicles offered by most of the leading automakers will evolve into semi-automated vehicles with on-board sensors and computers to assist drivers. With these semi-automated vehicles, there will be fewer collisions and the potential to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries, relative to current rates. In addition, many drivers will appreciate automated driving in stop-and-go traffic, intelligent cruise control on the highway, and parking assistance.
Seatbelts were introduced in 1959 by Volvo and didn't become mandatory in Canada until 1991, but given the rapid increase of semi-autonomous vehicles it appears as if provincial and federal legislators are eager to keep up. In a recent CBC article, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said,"From a regulatory point of view, we are running hard to keep up with this developing technology. It is absolutely critical that we do it."