Tuesday, 29 June 2021 14:09

June CIECAST Explores Future of AI in the Collision Repair Industry

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Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t just a vision for the future---it’s here now, and as it becomes more prevalent in the collision repair industry, auto body shops need to prepare to navigate its integration into various technologies, or risk being left behind.

During the June CIECAST, “The Future of AI in the Collision Industry,” Driaan du Toit, vice president of business development at Solera, and Evan Davies, Solera’s chief technology officer, shared insights on the ways AI is currently used in the collision repair industry, as well as its future uses.


“We all know the world has changed significantly over the past few years, and so have the vehicle and collision industries," du Toit began. "Innovation is rapid, and consumer needs are requiring and driving rapid changes, including automation in the repair and claims processes.”


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted collision repair, even as the industry’s dynamic has been altered by increased vehicle complexity, including ADAS, autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles. All these changes require body shops to have differently qualified staff and calibration equipment and capabilities, du Toit noted.


“Body shops and insurers must ensure accurate and safe repairs, according to standards, and these repairs, procedures and standards are increasing as equipment becomes more complex on a day-to-day basis,” he said.


Technological advances create a collision repair industry ripe for AI, du Toit believes. The digital experience is convenient and fast for policyholders, resulting in predictable outcomes. For insurers, AI-assisted decisions aid with early determination of severity and accurate, consistent assessments, while shops using AI-assisted tasks increase billable hours and deliver better customer service.


“Differentiation is key to survival for body shops,” du Toit said.


Consumers are ready to adopt AI in the claims process. According to research conducted by Coleman Parks and commissioned by Solera, 72% of consumers desire a fully automated AI claims and repair experience, while 83% would trust automotive claims driven by AI. More than three-quarters of consumers would favor body shops offering more digital channels to quote, book and track repairs.


“The consumer demand is relentless […] Automated and digitized workflows is no longer a wish for the consumer of the industry, but reality and actively being utilized today," du Toit said. "And this data is...

...a strong indication the market is keen to embrace a modern AI driven claims workflow.”


Body shops benefit from digital adoption with faster cycle times, improved productivity and better customer service. According to du Toit, AI-driven processes also “drive efficiency and higher margins. Shops are increasingly pressured to have skills and capabilities to deal with more complex repairs and consumer demands towards automation.


“The main benefits body shops can attain through implementing AI-driven technology in their businesses are faster cycle times across the repair process, as well as enhanced customer communications," du Toit said. "Shops also enjoy productivity improvements because AI guides technicians through the appropriate repair procedures and minimizes the requirement for researching appropriate procedures. It helps employees in a body shop do the right thing without having to spend hours figuring out what that right thing is.”


Alluding to the lack of skilled technicians entering the collision industry, du Toit pointed out AI-driven technology “lessens the burden for experience and knowledge by providing appropriate repair procedures and data for verification and guidance. Technology helps make the decisions and allows the technician to focus more on the execution of the repair. The end goal for the body shop is to repair more vehicles and to be more efficient in doing so.


"My guidance to body shops and MSOs is to embrace this technology today, or face the danger of being left behind.”


du Toit examined how Computer Vision enables photo estimating in the claims process, providing an opportunity to bring speed and consistency to the damage estimating process through scalable technology that can be trusted. An automated line-by-line estimate can be generated within a few minutes after photos of the damaged vehicle are submitted. Machine learning detects damages from images, removing subjectivity and increasing consistency.


Insurers use AI technology to “enhance the decision making at first notification of loss in terms of triage, ensuring that total losses do not enter the repair workflow,” du Toit said. “The most relevant benefit for a body shop appraiser is...

...the ability to go to the intake yard, take photos and obtain a line-by-line, detailed estimate in less than three minutes, a significant reduction in the time and skills required by a repair shop appraiser to complete and submit an estimate, taking less than 10 minutes on average.”


du Toit recommends using AI “to validate and justify the appraisal already received from the insurer to make sure you’re not missing any actions, procedures or labor times. This will significantly reduce cost to deliver against the ‘new normal’ whilst driving significantly improved customer experience and customer satisfaction ratings. Body shops want to repair more vehicles, and by implementing this technology, you’ll have that opportunity.


“The benefits for body shops and MSOs are vast,” du Toit added, suggesting a digital platform with enhanced automation, which allows for seamless interaction between all parties, is “the holy grail” and leads to accurate, consistent outcomes.


“Body shops and MSOs that embrace this in their processes will most certainly lead and probably win this race,” he said.


Looking at next-generation AI, Davies explained the objective is “to automate the claims management process as much as we can, and to do so in the appropriate way, by using advanced AI algorithms […] which allow us to enable human-level decision making and provide insights and information that can predict and project the direction of where a claim should go. By doing so, we can increase the efficiency and accuracy of the claims workflow process.”


The meta data collected through Computer Vision flows into the decision-making process of how to best create a dynamic workflow based on consumer needs and behaviors, which can be further augmented with more information about the vehicle itself.


“Advanced AI algorithms allow shops and insurers to utilize information obtained during the claim initiation to flow into the decision-making process to create a dynamic workflow,” Davies said. “The outcome of AI across its entire life cycle will result in increased renewals, increased cash out settlements, reduced leakage, improved margins, auto authorization, increased straight through processing and claims auditing.”


AI assists shops in determining the way to...

...“best understand how to provide that decision-making for the best outcome of our consumers, our insurers and the body shop in that entire life cycle itself,” Davies said, as he discussed collision repair industry trending towards EVs and AVs, which are “highly specialized vehicles that require special skills and information.”


“Start embracing and implementing this technology," du Toit said. "Body shops will be allowed to focus more on executing repairs and less on the administration around estimating in the future. There will be less need for skills and experience as many things will be driven by the machine. Insurers will adopt AI driven workflows, and this will be the new normal.


"Don’t fight it; embrace it! Humans will always be required to teach the machine and verify its results, but the need will become less as the AI gets smarter. Human interaction will be more focused on the outliers and more complex and sophisticated processes.


“The willingness to adopt and implement AI has increased significantly,” du Toit concluded. “The demand is real. The change is real. And it’s here today.”


A replay of the June CIECAST is available online.


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