Tech-assisted road safety isn’t just a new-car perk. Older models can retrofit devices that can make for a safer trip and potentially lower insurance premiums.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are a blanket term for all those smart tech bells and whistles designed to make driving a safer experience. ADAS assist drivers with traffic information, reversing and braking, collision detection, and other important things. They’re certainly the present and future for vehicles, but they’re also becoming the past.

No longer solely a luxury of the latest vehicle models, ADAS are being retrofitted into older vehicles to make them safer and more efficient. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that aftermarket collision warning systems paired with telematics encouraged safer driving and helped owners of older models fight tiredness at the wheel.

Telematics is data used to gather driving information such as speed, seatbelt usage, and other metrics. These are collected via an onboard device or through a mobile app. These devices typically attach to cars through the OBD-II port, which is common in vehicles produced after 1996.

Retrofits for safety gains and premium savings

With the average age of cars on the road today being 11.8 years, that means that plenty of drivers should be able to make a small addition to older models which could provide safety and financial benefits. Insurers frequently provide telematics to drivers, especially if they’re offering usage-based policies.

Not only do collision systems and telematics help keep the driver safer, but they may also keep them wealthier through reduced rates. Insurers receiving positive telematics data showing responsible driving behavior could offer lower premiums. The IIHS also points out other savings potential—retrofitting an older car with modern tech is far cheaper than buying a new model.

Shoppers can find several ADAS add-ons such as these examples on Amazon. The reviews show that they’ve proven useful in helping drivers travel more safely at night, expand their field of vision, and even help settle accident disputes (a huge help from an insurance point of view).

The IIHS study used the Mobileye ADAS which is an aftermarket tech solution employable in almost any vehicle. It doesn’t quite retrofit older models to match Mobileye’s goal of autonomous driving, but it certainly gives drivers a cyber copilot to relieve some of the burden. 40 million drivers were using Mobileye in 2019, and installing the device costs around $1,000.

That’s certainly a lot, but the potential savings made by avoiding damage to drivers, passengers, property, and pedestrians could outweigh the initial cost—and the expense of this tech is likely to go down in the future. A potential downside, however, is that better tech doesn’t always mean a better bottom line.

Safer cars mean lower insurance rates … right?

Not necessarily. It’s sensible to assume that when technology improves driver performance and boosts road safety, it lowers premiums, at least for that individual. We should be safer with extra tech enhancing our road awareness, but it comes with two new costs. There’s the expense to initially retrofit that tech and the expense to repair it should there be an accident—and potentially higher premiums as a result of both.

A tech-heavier vehicle naturally becomes more valuable and can cost more to insure and fix than retro cars without such features. Flashier headlights, on-board computers, and external sensors all cost far more to repair, with the AAA saying that even the smallest dent in such components could cost drivers thousands.

It depends on how far drivers want to go in retrofitting their vehicles. And like all insurance, it pays to shop around for an auto policy. One provider may be far more charitable to a retrofitted vehicle due to its boosted safety profile, while another may place a higher priority on the potential cost of repair.

Could the future mean lower rates for technologically advanced vehicles?

Tesla would like us to think so. While their vehicles are already pricier to insure due to their future-facing builds, the company is aiming to roll out its own national auto coverage in the near future, at rates potentially 30 percent less than other carriers. As with many things Tesla, claims are grand but real-world progress is slow and, at least so far, not quite living up to its full potential.

It’s good to see retrofits giving owners of older autos the chance to drive more safely in 2020. We’re sure there will be plenty more auto insurance news in the year to come, so stick with NICRIS for insight on the biggest issues and get in touch at the link below for practical insurance advice.

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