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ADAS could improve road safety, but creates challenges for UK and Ireland insurers

By Niall Kavanagh  |  May 26, 2020

While advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) help provide certain benefits from a road safety perspective and are becoming increasingly common in newly built cars in the UK and Ireland, motor insurers still face challenges that arise from the rate and consistency of ADAS adoption and the process of obtaining accurate and meaningful data.

Fully automated driving – whereby the automated system in place has full control over the vehicle – may be on course to arrive in the UK as early as 2021,1 but the widespread adoption of driverless cars may not come to fruition for some time.

In the meantime, ADAS features, such as lane departure warnings, autonomous emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control, are already being built into many new models of cars or retrofitted into existing cars. These technologies are not designed to replace drivers, but rather support them in identifying or avoiding potential hazards on the road.

From an insurance perspective, motor insurers may face challenges in underwriting and pricing coverage for the growing numbers of cars with ADAS features.

One of the main difficulties is knowing what ADAS features are present for a particular vehicle or fleet and to what degree they improve road safety. Furthermore, there may be some hesitation from insurers to trust customers to identify what safety features have been installed.

Verisk aims to assist insurers in overcoming these challenges through Vehicle Intelligence, a service which provide comprehensive and accurate information on every vehicle in the UK and Ireland. The service provides valuable insights into the specifications of a vehicle, including its performance, components, ADAS, and safety features.

How safe are cars with ADAS?

Advanced driver-assistance systems include a broad range of technologies that function very differently, and each have their own perceived benefits. Various studies have examined the benefits of the different technologies and some have found more evidence on their effectiveness than others.

Analysis from Verisk shows that some ADAS features have reduced accident frequency in the US, but the benefit is partially offset by the expense of repairing vehicles with ADAS technology after an accident.

The analysis showed that lane departure warnings had little impact on reducing the frequency of accidents, but can add 20 percent to the severity of claims due to the higher replacement costs. Anecdotally, this feature may have helped reduce accidents for some drivers, however the warning system may have also caused other drivers to overreact and swerve into other lanes in panic.

However, frontal collision detection systems – where the car will automatically brake itself in an emergency without a foot on the pedal – has been found to reduce the frequency of accidents by 15 percent and also reduce the severity by up to 20 percent. It should also be noted that the effectiveness of ADAS features can differ based on the manufacturer and model.

Thatcham Research, an automotive research centre established by motor insurers, found that third-party injury claims in the UK for the Volkswagen Golf VII fitted with autonomous emergency braking were 45 percent lower than those without it.2

Research from Thatcham, in collaboration with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), also highlights that manually driven, assisted, and automated vehicles are all expected to share roads that are unlikely to change significantly for a period of time, and warns that a mixed and evolving fleet may present an ongoing to risk to insurers.3

Motor insurers have called for greater clarity around the definition of what constitutes an automated or assisted vehicle, along with how liability will be determined and how accident data is captured.

The European Commission states that 90 percent of fatalities and injuries on the road are due to human error, and that new technologies on the market will help to reduce this number.4

In 2019, the European Union revised the vehicle General Safety Regulation to make a range of advanced safety features mandatory for light and heavy vehicles.5

From July 2022, the regulation will require European vehicles to have intelligent speed assistance, reversing safety with cameras or sensors, and a data recorder in case of an accident (black box). Cars and vans will require lane-keeping assistance and advanced emergency braking, and trucks and buses will require systems at the front and side of vehicles to warn them of vulnerable road users.

The Commission suggests that the proposed measures will help save over 25,000 lives and avoid at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038.

The revisions to the General Safety Regulation are part of longer-term initiative – named Vision Zero – of moving close to zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050.

Getting accurate ADAS and safety specifications

As more and more vehicles are manufactured with ADAS features and insurers start to price more effectively for vehicles with certain safety features, it is important that insurers have access to more reliable information around ADAS features in these vehicles

Verisk’s Vehicle Intelligence service for the UK and Ireland contains key fields and descriptions for over 170,000 different models of vehicles. The ADAS and safety features covered include:

  • Active bonnet systems
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Adaptive front lighting system
  • High beam assist
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Camera monitor systems
  • Collision avoidance systems
  • Crosswind assist
  • Driver fatigue systems
  • Electronic brake force distribution
  • Heads up display
  • Hill assist
  • Speed assist
  • Lane assist systems
  • Night view assist
  • ADAS calibration
  • Self-cleaning sensors
  • Parking assist
  • Semi-autonomous driving
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Turning assist

Accessible as either an individual registration look-up, or for a fleet of vehicles, the service provides valuable insights for motor underwriting and pricing insurance.


  1. Government moves forward on advanced trials for self-driving vehicles, UK Government, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-moves-forward-on-advanced-trials-for-self-driving-vehicles, accessed 14 April, 2020
  2. 'What is AEB?', Thatcham Research, https://www.thatcham.org/what-we-do/car-safety/autonomous-emergency-braking/, accessed 14 April, 2020
  3. ‘Defining Safe Automated Driving: Insurer Requirements for Highway Automation’, Thatcham Research and Association of British Insurers, https://www.thatcham.org/what-we-do/automated-driving/, accessed 14 April, 2020
  4. ‘Europe on the Move: Commission completes its agenda for safe, clean and connected mobility’ https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/road/news/2018-05-17-europe-on-the-move-3_en, accessed 14 April, 2020
  5. EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030 - Next steps towards "Vision Zero", European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/legislation/swd20190283-roadsafety-vision-zero.pdf, accessed on 14 April, 2020
  6. Road safety: Commission welcomes agreement on new EU rules to help save lives, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_19_1793, accessed on 14 April, 2020

Niall Kavanagh, Managing Director of Verisk Ireland. He can be reached at niall.kavanagh@verisk.com.