Technology that helps car safety (and could lower car insurance)

Car technology has come a long way since the first car was built by Karl Benz 1886. As cars become more complex and technologically advanced, the need for increased safety measures has become paramount, especially for the car insurance industry. The more dangerous cars become, the more accidents they cause, which results in a higher car insurance premium for the rest of us. These new safety features should make our cars safer, leading to less collisions and therefore lowering our prices.

Self-driving car

This is the big new thing in the auto world. Google’s sensor-laden motor is able to check its surroundings for any potential hazards and respond accordingly, allowing it to drive, brake and manoeuvre without any human input whatsoever. So far, the Google driverless car has only been involved in a single collision, and that was when it was being driven by a person. If all cars have this tech built-in, then in theory it should stop all car-on-car collisions. If that’s the case, would we still need car insurance at all?

Pedestrian Airbag

So car-on-car collisions could be a thing of the past, but what about pedestrians? As sophisticated as the driverless car is, it still might not stop in time when a pedestrian shoots out in front of it. Luckily, Volvo have come up with a system that, if a collision with a pedestrian is unavoidable, at least softens the blow of impact. The new Volvo V40 has a specially designed airbag hidden beneath the bonnet of the car. Sensors on the front of the car detect if there’s an impact and if so it lifts the bonnet and deploys the airbag. The airbag cushions the pedestrian’s head and decreases the chances of a serious or fatal injury.

Emergency braking system

Based on a system initially designed for the Volkswagen Up!, the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system uses a combination of radar and cameras to sense the relative distance of hazards, allowing the car to automatically brake if the driver fails to react in time. This system has also been adopted by Ford, Volvo and Nissan. The technology is so successful that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) are looking to give discounts on car insurance premiums to people who have AEB systems equipped.

Haptic feedback

One of the causes of road accident is driver distractions, and one of these distractions is when you stare at the sat nav to find out when your next turning is. Honda have integrated an older technology – haptic feedback (where the steering wheel vibrates whenever you drift outside of the lane markings) – and sat-nav technology to create a system that’ll give you directions through touch rather than sight and sound. This should enable drivers to keep their eyes on the road more often, lowering the rate of accidents caused by distraction.

Black box telematics

Black box tech is in its infancy, so it’ll take a little while before we truly see the benefits of this. Telematics is a device that fits into your car and tracks your speed, braking and cornering as you drive. You can also track where and when you drive, and it works out how good a driver you are based on these factors. If you can prove to your insurer that you’re a safe driver then surely you should be entitled to a lower premium? Some car insurance companies are already using telematics technology as part of their standard policies, enabling drivers to be rated according to their driving habits rather than their demographic.

Jamie Gibbs is the resident blogger for car insurance comparison site Confused.com

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