American car insurance rates are going up up up. In the past decade, they climbed 29.6 percent, to an average of $1,548 in 2019 from $1,194 in 2011. Wired reports:
The surge, detailed in a new report from insurance shopping site The Zebra, outpaced both inflation (by far) and the increase in average car prices (more narrowly). And it came even as the rate of crashes has fallen year over year…
It turns out that new features designed to keep vehicles in their lanes and out of trouble are contributing to rising insurance rates.
That’s because the sensors that power those systems make cars much more expensive to fix when they do crash. Dent a steel bumper, and a few hammer blows gets you back on the road. Smash one on a new car, and it could mean replacing a radar, a camera, and ultrasonic sensors, then calibrating them so they work properly. Replacing a cracked windshield now comes with the extra cost of having someone readjust any cameras that look through the glass.
While some studies have shown the effectiveness of emergency braking, insurance companies haven’t yet seen enough evidence to justify a break in rates for most of these features. That’s not to say lane keeping, parking assist, and the rest don’t work. They’re all relatively new, and the actuaries aren’t yet confident that their benefits outweigh the extra costs they incur to repair. Complicating the picture is the fact that each automaker offers its own version of each feature, and that drivers may not keep the systems engaged.