Humans are defeating nanny tech in cars?

A typical new car has a lot of driver assistance features designed to make driving safer. Examples from Toyota:

(Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are separate features, not on all trim levels.)

And the latest, for the 2021 Camry:

But insurance companies don’t cut rates for cars that have these features (source). Here are some possible explanations…

  • highway driving is already very safe and most of these magic features, e.g., blind spot monitor and lane-keeping, work only on the highway
  • humans aware of these electronic guard rails drive more carelessly to the point that the risk is the same
  • the insurance market is inefficient
  • the technology does not, in fact, work well in real-world conditions (our Honda Odyssey blind spot monitoring works great, though, which might be why this fine machine is the choice of Amy Coney Barrett!)

Readers: How do we explain the apparent contradiction?

10 thoughts on “Humans are defeating nanny tech in cars?

  1. My quick thought – none of these silver bullets have been shown to reduce accidents. Your first bullet point is also spot on I believe.

    One other thought based on my new 2019 Audi – making sense of all of this technology, adjusting it, reacting to it while driving, etc further detracts from the driver paying attention. Which may cause more accidents.

    Blind spot monitoring on my Audi does work fantastic. Also the cameras for parking and backup. But the best technology is the adaptive cruise control for highway driving and how smooth the glide path is when slowing down because there is an 18 wheeler in front of you going 20 mph slower than you. Those programmers are good.

  2. You forgot to list the most important bullet item:

    * State laws, at least here in MA and many other states, require you to have care insurance to get a plate and than drive your car. Furthermore, at least in MA, it is the State legislators who set the rate and policy, with “some” advice from insurance companies.

    “some” is in quote meaning insurance companies have lobbyers influencing the legislators so they get what they want.

    Thus, don’t expect the rates to go down, even if you have the safest car on the planet. Car insurance companies will make sure you pay top $ to insure your car.

  3. It’s not clear from a quick look at the Zebra study whether they considered driver assistance features only as a distinct rating factor—as in discounts given specifically for vehicles having certain features—or if they also looked at whether those features might be affecting rates indirectly, by reducing the relative frequency and severity of collisions involving vehicles that have them, and thus ultimately reducing the premiums to insure those vehicles.

    Another explanation may be that driver assistance features, in some form, are now so widely available—Toyota Safety Sense is standard equipment on nearly all their models, for example—that their effects are, actuarially, impossible to distinguish from the more favorable loss history of new vehicles in general. In other words, if the insurance company gives a “New Vehicle” discount, the driver assistance features may be one reason why.

    Higher costs for collision repair—such as the need to replace or calibrate radar and optical sensors—may also cancel out some of the benefits, in monetary terms. Obviously, there may be benefits in terms of deaths and injuries avoided, but the limits of liability for most personal auto insurance are so low that insurers aren’t fully exposed to those losses.

  4. I’ve yet to drive a car that didn’t piss me off with its driver “assist” to the point where I simply turned off everything I could. In particular the adaptive cruise control across several brands has been appalling. Why is it default behaviour to brake rather than simply coast when it detects a slightly slower truck 500m in front? Not to mention how it usually detects traffic on adjacent lanes on a long corner as being something that requires aggressive braking…

    So there’s your answer… these things are shit and people turn them off so insurance stays the same.

  5. I have no idea if it has anything to do with it, but at least measured objectively, minivans and regular cars handle almost as well as sports cars did in the 80s
    Look at this skidpad and acceleration numbers in this article:
    They have more safety features, but they are not like the old VW vans. (The Tesla minivans are probably pretty competitive at the drag strip!)
    Plenty of opportunity for drivers to get themselves into trouble. I think the new Volvos have auto-braking, which should be helpful.

  6. I admit I’m old-fashioned when it comes to technology in cars. The lane-keeping tech. has always seemed to me like a good way to let people who are already “rollers” instead of “drivers” keep distracting themselves and diddling around with other stuff. On the other hand, there are a lot of “rollers” out there anyway, and maybe the lane-keeping feature helps them when they’re high.

    I’m old-fashioned because I actually like to drive my car, in full control of the brakes, throttle, steering and with as much awareness as I can muster to do the job and have a good time. So I’m biased because I enjoy driving.

    All of this is the creeping technology that will allow driverless cars to shuttle people from one government-subsidized destination to the other, which is obviously the Future. Except for the rich folks. They’ll get to drive their own cars and Turn it Off.

    My Ford Escape Hybrid has electronic steering but because it’s relatively old (2010) there are no fancy doodads to help me stay in my lane while I’m drunk or stoned. It has a nice Microsoft SYNC Nav. system, but you still have to drive the car.

    • By the way, the SYNC Nav. system on my car is horribly inaccurate most of the time, which is due to the car’s age. It shows its age because it doesn’t take into account things like traffic lights and narrow streets that have very limited speeds, and it can’t be updated. Today I had a destination and the NAV system would have taken me 30 miles out of my way through narrow streets, and I had to shut it off.

      I have no doubt that the newest systems are much better. As I’ve noted before, one co-winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry thinks that the ideal for the future is for individuals not to own cars, but rely on driverless public transport networks. Hard to find that quote now, but here’s a slightly different one:

      “The future of car society is AIEV, he says: electric vehicles driven by artificial intelligence.”

      You won’t own a vehicle. The Deplorables are going to be very fucking mad.

  7. The adaptive cruise control feature is another thing that annoys me on first principles. You can put the car in Cruise if you like, but by God, you should be driving the car. If you have to slow down a few MPH because nimrod in front of you is drunk or stoned, that’s a good thing to know. I am so antediluvian.

    The bigger question is: why have driving schools? Soon we won’t need them, and all those people are going to be unemployed, too.

  8. It’s interesting, though: the idea that the insurance market is inefficient can theoretically be solved with telematics and vehicle data. When you know exactly what the conditions were, the place was, the person behind the wheel was doing, and all the control inputs, you have a much better idea of what caused the accident.

  9. Efficient markets aren’t going to solve the Drinkin’ Problem. The whiz kids in Silicon Valley do mushrooms and micro-LSD, they don’t care about the Deplorables, except to eliminate them as painfully as possible.

Comments are closed.