Latest active-safety systems may not cut your car-insurance bill...yet

June 9, 2016

Active-safety systems like automatic braking and collision avoidance minimize the chances that you'll be seriously injured in a crash. Unfortunately, these semi-autonomous systems may not reduce your auto-insurance premium--at least, not yet.

That's likely to come as a surprise to many of you. After all, we've spent a good bit of time writing about autonomous cars and the death of auto insurance. Less than a year ago, estimates suggested that self-driving vehicles could save owners up to $1,000 each year on premiums.

Semi-autonomous features aren't likely to cut your bill nearly that much, but it would stand to reason that you'd save something, right? 

Alas, reason alone isn't enough to get insurers to whittle down premiums: they want proof that active-safety systems reduce deaths, injuries, and vehicle damage. At the moment, however, automakers don't have enough data to make that argument. 

The good news is, that data is starting to trickle in. Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a study that said up to 40 percent of rear-end collisions could be avoided if all cars were equipped with automated braking. Such widespread adoption won't happen overnight, but the U.S. government and at least 20 automakers have vowed to make such braking systems standard on new vehicles by 2022.

(FWIW, Toyota is getting a jump on that deadline: the company plans to make automatic braking standard on nearly all new Toyota and Lexus models by the end of 2017.)

At the moment, just two major insurers--The Hartford and Liberty Mutual--have begun cutting rates for cars equipped with semi-autonomous technology. However, the savings might not be significant enough to entice shoppers to shell out between $300 and $2,000 for active-safety technology. The Hartford's discount saves consumers only about $30 per year on a $1,000 policy, and Liberty Mutual has declined to give estimates.

Other insurers are more cautious, assessing repair costs associated with cameras, radar, and other elements of active-safety systems. Signs suggest that they'll eventually see the light, though. 
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