Auto tech is in the news all the time. We routinely hear about new hybrid technologies that save fuel and cut emissions. While these systems achieve larger cost-conscious and environmentally sensitive goals, less-publicized high-tech systems are making cars more aware of the world around them and fostering the birth of a new generation of auto insurance safety discounts.
Popular High-Tech Auto Safety Systems
The list of safety technologies that either provide more information to the driver or, in some cases, assume control of the car in dangerous situations is growing steadily. Currently the top ten players in this field are:
- tire-pressure monitoring
- adaptive cruise control / collision mitigation
- blind-spot detection / side assist / collision warning
- lane-departure warning / driver alertness detection
- rollover prevention and mitigation
- occupant-aware dual-stage airbags
- emergency brake assist
- adaptive headlight and/or night-vision assist
- rear view cameras
- emergency response
Auto insurance companies consult the findings of both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to judge a vehicle’s safety profile based on the number of systems present and the overall structural integrity and design of the automobile.
Newer Systems Raising the Safety Bar
Once upon a time just having airbags and seatbelts was enough to garner auto insurance customers a discount. Now, insurers are looking for more advanced systems and design influences. For instance:
- Anti-lock brakes prevent skidding and make driving in inclement weather safer.
- More cars are now being outfitted with passenger side and backseat airbags for all-occupant protection.
- Rearview cameras significantly reduce parking lot accidents, one of the most likely places for drivers to be involved in “fender benders.”
- Cars with smaller engine blocks are less prone to crashes than larger vehicles, especially vans and SUVs.
- Electronic stability control makes for more even driving and compensates for potentially risky maneuvers like swerving.
- Crash resistant doors and crumple zones protect cabin occupants in crashes by absorbing and distributing the force of an impact.
The development of such systems is ongoing and gets more creative and futuristic with each passing model year.
Ongoing Research in Safety Systems Tackles More Sophisticated Problems
Every year more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed and 59,000 injured in vehicle crashes nationwide. Researchers from Toyota are currently working with colleagues at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to develop pedestrian detection systems.
The study, which will run for five years, is part of a $50 million push on Toyota’s part to study safety issues with researchers at six universities and research institutions. The specific work with pedestrian accidents will use crash data provided by the NHTSA as well as original vehicle testing data to develop realistic vehicle / pedestrian scenarios. Using those parameters, engineers can more accurately fine tune developing pedestrian pre-collision technologies to be incorporated in future models.
The IIHS estimates that pedestrian-recognition technology could prevent tens of thousands of crashes annually. One major stumbling block, however, is that less than a third of such fatalities happen during the day when recognition systems currently operate most effectively. It is likely, then, that in working on pedestrian detection, researchers will also incrementally improve auto night-vision systems.
Be Pro-active in Seeking Safety Discounts
Although insurance companies should be aware of all the safety features of any given model, don’t assume that this is the case. When you buy a new vehicle, carefully list out each safety system present and any design features that make the vehicle safer to operate. Make sure you are getting the cheapest insurance rates possible by vigorously pursing safety discounts. This strategy, in tandem with seeking comparative rate quotes is your fastest avenue to inexpensive, comprehensive auto coverage.