Survey Says Crash-Avoidance Tech Can Cause Issues After Repairs

mazda-cx-30-2020-01-instrument-panel--interior--safety-tech--sensor.jpg 2020 Mazda CX-30 | photo by Mike Hanley

Crash-avoidance technology has played a prominent role in improving vehicle safety, with some of these systems helping to reduce accidents and fatalities. However, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows these systems have also proven to be problematic for consumers — especially after they get repaired.

Related: Automakers, Safety Officials Make Crash Avoidance Systems Standard by 2022

The agency surveyed more than 3,000 owners of vehicles equipped with crash-avoidance tech (e.g., blind spot monitor, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and rearview cameras). Among those who said they’ve had repairs completed for any of these systems, roughly half stated they had problems with the technologies after the repair was complete.

“Most of the more than 3,000 owners we contacted said they had never needed to have their crash-avoidance features repaired, but for the minority of owners who did, the problems weren’t always resolved easily,” said the survey’s designer, IIHS Senior Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller. “Many had issues with the technology afterward, and some said they had to have the same feature repaired more than once. Still, the vast majority said they would buy a vehicle equipped with the technology again, and most were satisfied with the out-of-pocket cost.”

A growing pool of new vehicles are being equipped with such safety features and is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. The features themselves are also resilient to the effects of crash forces — but IIHS analyses suggest the bulk of the problems come from the repair process itself, not the actual crash.

Crash-avoidance systems typically require the calibration of sensors and cameras, which can make the repair expensive and complex. According to IIHS, while a typical windshield can cost as little as $250 to replace, a separate study from the Highway Loss Data Institute revealed that the same repair for a vehicle equipped with front crash prevention technology was more likely to have claims of $1,000-plus due to calibration of system components. While it’s common for customers to make repeat trips to the repair shop to try to fix a problem, IIHS suggests the higher percentage of repeat repairs on vehicles equipped with crash-prevention features could be a sign that shops are having trouble with the calibration process. Such processes vary from one automaker to another, and some systems require specialized training and equipment. The software used in the calibration itself also can be frequently updated, making it even harder for shops to keep up.

Despite these issues, the IIHS study also revealed the majority of surveyed owners indicated they would still buy a new vehicle equipped with crash-avoidance features, with only 5% of owners saying they wouldn’t buy a vehicle equipped with such features when it came time for a new car.

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