emergency braking

Matt Moore of the insurer-funded Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) offered some insights into the impact auto-emergency braking (AEB) could have on the frequency and severity of front-end crashes in the coming years, during his presentation at the recent Women’s Industry Network (WIN) virtual conference.

HLDI’s rating system for AEB systems involves two crash tests conducted at 25 mph and 12 mph. Those speeds may sound slow, he said, but “the more speed you can drop out of a crash, you drop out an exponential amount of energy.”

A 25 mph crash of a Mercedes C-Class resulted in more than $28,000 in damage, for example, Moore said, but when the speed was reduced to 12 mph, “the cost is reduced by more than half,” to $5,715.

“Of course, if you can go from 12 mph down to zero, you can totally avoid that hit altogether,” he said.

AEB is expected to reduce front-end crashes that result in injury by more than 50%, Moore said. Of course, the potential benefits of AEB go away if consumers turn the system off.

But Moore said HLDI stationed researchers at some dealerships to check vehicles being dropped off for service. They found the lane departure systems on those vehicles were only left on 50% of the time, and Moore said he suspects even more drivers would turn that system off if doing so was easier. But the AEB remained active on almost 92% of the vehicles equipped with that system.

“Folks like it. They leave it on,” Moore said.

While automakers have voluntarily agreed to equip all new vehicles with AEB by September of 2022---and many automakers are ahead of schedule toward that goal---it still will take a long time for a majority of vehicles on the road have AEB, he said. He shared a series of charts to demonstrate this.

The first showed the percentage of new vehicles for which AEB is optional or standard has grown significantly:

But the second showed even in 2019, HLDI estimated only about 6% of registered vehicles were equipped with AEB:

A third chart showed how that is likely to grow over the next two decades, but still, the 50% mark is not expected to be reached until about 2030:

“We’re predicting it’s going to be about 2045 until the vast majority of vehicles [in operation] have this technology,” Moore said.

Another factor driving up severity of claims Moore pointed to involves changes to vehicle powertrains. Moore shared a slide showing how far hybrid, electric and turbo- or super-charged vehicles have grown, and will continue to grow, in relation to vehicles powered by conventional gasoline engines:

“What we’re predicting is by 2030, over 45% of vehicles will either be turbo-charged, super-charged, hybrid or electric, and that matters,” Moore said.

He shared charts showing hybrid vehicles have higher collision and property damage liability losses than their conventional engine counterparts.

“This is, in part, because these hybrid vehicles are heavier,” he said. “More complex to repair, more parts.”

Electric vehicles, which Moore said will soon outnumber hybrids, have lower frequencies but higher severity. And turbo- or super-charged vehicles are also associated with increases in severity.

“For collision losses, about a 4% increase,” Moore said. “You take an already crowded engine compartment, and jam a whole lot more stuff under that hood as you would with a turbocharger or supercharger, and you increase the amount of damage it’s going to have when those crashes occur.”

Claims have also been impacted by a steady growth in vehicle horsepower over the past four decades, and increases in speed limits over the past 20 years.

“In 1981, most vehicles had less than 100 horsepower,” Moore said. “These days you can’t buy a vehicle with that little power.”

A 1983 Toyota Camry had 92 horsepower; the 2019 model had either 203 or 301 horsepower. A 1983 Jeep Grand Cherokee had 180-220 horsepower; the 2019 model had 285-360 horsepower. The 1981 Ford F-150 had 115-165 horsepower; the 2019 model has 250-370.

“More horsepower at any age nets you higher insurance losses,” Moore said. “The faster a vehicle is, the faster people are going to drive it.”

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