Advances in crash avoidance technology (CAT) means that motor vehicles are now safer than ever before. As a result of engineering techniques, new technologies, and the ability to analyze crash data, manufacturers can now build safer vehicles. While Jaime Jackson Law advocates that safety should never be an option, crash avoidance technology advances mean consumers can choose the safety features they feel best keep them safe on the road. A drawback, however, are CAT repair costs. But, what price are we willing to put on safety?
Crash avoidance technologies (CAT) can mitigate crashes, reduce the severity of non-fatal injuries, and save lives. CAT is discussed in more detail in this article. Broadly, some of the safety features include blind-spot detection, lane departure warning (LDW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and forward collision warning (FCW).
The main drawback
Despite these advances, one drawback in safety technology (if there can be drawback for improved safety), is the cost of repair. According to AAA research, vehicles equipped with CAT safety features “can cost twice as much to repair following a collision due to expensive sensors and their calibration requirements.” This is because sensors that are key to these safety features are usually housed in easily damaged areas such as bumpers, windshields, and side mirrors.
For example, replacing a windshield equipped with front camera sensors which support LDW, AEB, and adaptive cruise control, can cost anywhere between three and eight times more than windshields in cars which do not support CAT. Further, the radar sensors in the rear of a vehicle, used for blind-spot detection and cross-traffic monitoring, can cost around $2,050 to repair.
Recalibration, repair, and the ramifications
The cost of labor for repairing a vehicle equipped with CAT relates mostly to the vehicle’s electronics. A consequence of additional safety technology is the recalibration and testing required to ensure that the CAT systems are fully functioning and interacting with each other as they should. Some models require static testing using lasers, others require dynamic testing which means a road test within specific parameters. A sensor that is not properly calibrated reduces the effectiveness of the safety feature. The potential ramifications are obvious.
The expertise required to repair, recalibrate, and test the effectiveness of repairs raises a number of questions for consumers as well as liability issues for the legal profession.
CAT repair questions to think about
- Where should repair work be carried out? Should it be a manufacturer authorized service center or the local independent garage?
- Who has more knowledge and experience to carry out CAT repairs?
- What are the training standards for CAT repairs?
- What is the duty of the vehicle manufacturer and/or the technology manufacturer to properly train service technicians? Does this extend beyond technicians to include service advisors who can explain what is needed to customers?
- What happens if a repair is not properly carried out? By the time a driver learns a CAT repair has not been properly completed, it may be to be too late. Who is liable? Is it the vehicle manufacturer, the manufacturer of the technology component, or the garage that completed the repair?
- What about the scenario where new or re-manufactured components are installed but they are not compatible with the existing CAT systems?
- Is a warranty void if aftermarket parts are used? Do aftermarket parts provide the same level of safety? Independent repair shops dominate the aftermarket and can often complete repairs at reduced cost, however, many manufacturers are likely to take the position that parts and repairs from unauthorized dealers will affect warranties.
- Is garage equipment, such as scanning tools, alignment equipment etc. up to date?
- Do scanning tools need to be manufacturer-made to address diagnostic trouble codes?
- Has the CAT system been properly calibrated and tested?
Authorized dealer or local garage
Perhaps it is misleading to suggest that only authorized dealerships only have the skill and experience to address repairs. Local garages and repair companies may be staying ahead of the curve by investing in manufacturer-approved scanning and calibration tools. For example, Safelite AutoGlass has teamed up with Bosch to develop recalibration tools for vehicle windshields equipped with CAT.
Investigating a CAT Repair
With these questions in mind, it is critical to thoroughly investigate crashworthiness cases. Did the safety feature function as it was designed to do so? If not, why not? In addition to preserving the vehicle(s), retaining experts, detailing the crash scene, and obtaining the crash data report (CDR), attorneys must also consider a vehicle’s CAT repair history. This means:
- Analyzing the CDR, any diagnostic trouble codes, and their meaning
- Obtaining the vehicle’s prior service and repair history, including invoices from garages and/or dealerships.
- Depending on what information the service history and repair invoices show, consider obtaining the purchase orders and invoices for the parts that were supplied. It is important to cross-check part numbers and compatibility, as well as calibration and road-testing.
Continuously evolving technology – questions for consumers
As technology and safety features continue to develop, CAT repair costs for consumers are also likely to rise. As a result, consumers should be asking questions of their dealership and their insurance company about where to have repairs carried out.
In addition, consumers should check their insurance policies are appropriate to cover CAT and if premiums are affected. It is ironic that newer cars with advanced safety systems have higher premiums despite being safer on the road. Although the chances of being involved in a collision is mitigated with CAT, the repair costs are higher. According to a Wall Street Journal article until nearly half of all vehicles are equipped with CAT features, insurance costs aren’t likely to go down.
The concerns above do not only relate to the new vehicle market. CAT systems (such as adaptive cruise control) have been integrated into cars as early as the 1990s. Used cars, rental vehicles, and commercial trucks are all likely to have some form of CAT system. Questions about repair location, cost, and liability, apply across the board.
Advocating for safety as standard
Jaime Jackson Law, together with other plaintiff personal injury attorneys with a focus on products liability, advocates for manufacturers to incorporate collision mitigation safety features as standard on all vehicles. As manufacturers commit to developing autonomous vehicles, safety will be paramount, and crash avoidance technology, it is hoped, will eventually have to become standard.