A wealth of new technology is being put into cars to increase safety, as control of the vehicle is gradually taken away from the driver and given to on-board computers supported by dozens of sensors.
For the insurance industry, this should be good news. Safer cars means fewer claims and either lower premiums for customers or more profitable books for insurers.
Yet while claim frequency may be declining, the cost of replacing components in the event of a collision is spiraling upward.
As the New York Times points out, replacing a "smart" windshield in the event of a crack is now significantly more expensive. Not only are the parts more expensive, but the labor involved with fixing smart vehicles is increasing as mechanics must check that safety components are calibrated properly.
Vehicles utilizing sensors are inherently more fragile and a minor ding can misalign a vehicle's entire safety system, leading to costly re-calibration.
Preventing accident-prone humans from crashes is clearly a good thing, but it may not allow insurers to lower premiums anytime soon.
Replacing a cracked or chipped windshield, for example, in a car with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning systems could cost as much as $1,600. Furthermore, many cars are now bristling with embedded ultrasonic and radar sensors. So a relatively minor driving misjudgment that damages a side mirror and rear bumper could require fixing rear radar sensors used with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. The price? As high as $2,050.