Insurers Know VINs Aren’t What They Used to Be!

Auto insurers have begun considering the ADAS on a vehicle as more indicative of a risk factor than the driver behind the wheel.

That’s the claim being made by Paul Stacy, automotive director at LexisNexis Risk Solutions who sees a vehicle’s safety features becoming the major data source that insurance companies will have to access when calculating premiums. Speaking to TU-Automotive, Stacy said the move to trusting the safety technology fitted to modern vehicles has been a long time coming.

He said: “The precursor to the autonomous vehicle is ADAS because the driverless vehicle will rely on all these existing features and how they interact with each other. Some ten years ago the first adaptive cruise control was brought in and now, today, we have vehicles on the road approaching Level 3 capabilities, bringing lane departure and steering control.

“However, I think the insurance industry is now focusing more about what’s on the vehicle. Before it was ‘put your license plate number in and we’ll do a DVLA [UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] look up’ to find engine size, weight and number of doors. Now they need to know more about what technology is one the vehicle. The push, until now, has been knowing everything there is to know about the drivers – that’s shifting now to realize these vehicles are harder to crash but much more expensive to repair.”

Key to helping the insurers know what systems are fitting to modern cars is the chassis VIN (vehicle identification number) that automakers should be in a position to provide showing all the safety features it has added to that particular vehicle. Stacy said: “The best ADAS information is at VIN level because you actually get the DNA of the vehicle. With a lot of the German manufacturers, the car on the production line in front or behind the one in question can be completely different. So, we need to look at data at VIN level and we need an undertaking to normalize this data.”

However, there is a lack of standardization between different carmakers and this can pose a challenge to insurers, said Stacy. He said: “Every manufacturer calls their ADAS different things, they feed back to the driver differently, some of them take over control of vehicles while some of them don’t. Some you can turn off, some you can’t. So, we have to go through all of these and create an index that the insurance industry can say ‘I know exactly what that feature is and I can rate it now’. We are doing this now.”

Autonomous reality

Stacy also agreed with the sentiments of many delegates at the TU-Automotive Detroit 2019 conference where experts are facing up to the fact that mass market adoption of full autonomy is further off than had been previously envisaged. He explained that while focusing on developing advanced technology, too little has been done in addressing consumer demand and knowledge.

Stacy said: “A lot of people can forget that consumers are not necessarily want or are ready for some of these innovations in technology. Especially with autonomous driving, the technology probably exists but the infrastructure around the autonomous vehicle needs so much work.

“The legal infrastructure, for example, the insurance infrastructure and data and compliance are all such areas. A lot of the hype was people just willing this to go faster, seeing the benefits but not realizing consumers need to be brought along on the journey.”

Stacy said the industry must be prepared for a gradual move towards full autonomy taking into account the baby-steps required to have it accepted by both consumers and regulators. He concluded: “Autonomous adoption will be slow, possibly with corridors starting with the commercial heavy haulage industry with platooning and maybe pods to deliver people to destinations – it’s going to be very gradual. A car without a steering wheel navigating its way through the lanes of Devon is not going to happen for a long time.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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