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08 Apr 16 10:26

The picture above is of a 1959 Chevy Bel Air, with aircraft inspired side trim and batwing fins. I could ogle at that rear end for hours! If only they made cars like that today. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety did crash one into a 2009 Chevy Malibu a few years ago. The results show the enormous progress the auto industry has made in crashworthiness of vehicles during the last half a century. The Bel Air was almost obliterated while the passenger cabin remained largely intact for the Malibu. It demonstrates how some of the safety features we take for granted today, like airbags, collapsible steering columns, front crumple zones, etc. can tremendously influence the survival rate of the occupants in case of a crash.

The motor insurance industry too has come a long way in the last 50 years with access to large amounts of data which enable greater personalisation of policies and encourage safer driving. And with driverless vehicles set to hit the roads in the next few years, there's much focus and debate on how insurance can further help mitigate some of the associated risks. It could make roads even safer for high income countries which account for 10% of road fatalities. For the rest 90%, that belong to low/middle income countries like India which are set to dominate the auto market in the next few decades, autonomous vehicles are many decades away and have more fundamental road safety issues to deal with. 

Manufacturers continue to make "tin cans" and hide behind outdated regulations while motor insurers base their price on make and model of the vehicle than the risk of the driver. There are no incentives for additional safety devices. And the road safety issues have been known and dealt with in west half a decade ago. I feel insurers have a huge role to play in helping society understand the risks they face during their daily commutes. It's in the industry's DNA to help the world be more resilient. We cannot afford to be bystanders any longer to a largely predictable and preventable human tragedy. Delays will only mean more unsafe drivers, new sub-standard and unsafe vehicles hitting the roads, remaining as potential death traps for decades to come.

You can read more in my post on LinkedIn where I invite you to share your thoughts on what's holding back insurers from innovating and if there are ways we can leapfrog some of the challenges through new technologies.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/india-motor-insurance-stuck-time-warp-karthik-sampath


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