In the front Sometimes Jerry McNee hasn’t always been a fan of evaluators. McNee is the president of Ultimate Collision Repair, an auto repair shop in Edison, New Jersey. From his perspective, appraisers and adjusters, paid by insurance companies, generally want to pay less for repairs than he thinks his shop deserves.
Since Covid-19 swept the world last year, McNee sees a lot fewer reviewers. Instead, insurers are deploying technology, including estimates based on photos and artificial intelligence. McNee somehow misses his old opponents. “When the evaluators were here, face to face, you had a better relationship with them,” he says. “The assessor knew you, he trusted you.”
the pandemic has turned many businesses upside down. The auto repair industry is a case study of the unintended effects of technology replacing face-to-face interactions.
Before the pandemic, about 15% of auto claims in the United States were settled using photos rather than in-person visits by experts, says Bill Brower, head of auto claims at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data and data company. analysis. Now it’s 60%, and he expects it to reach 80% by 2025.
At the same time, insurers have stepped up their investments in AI. Last year “was the year AI really broke the threshold from new to the norm,” says Marc Fredman, chief strategy officer at CCC Information Services, which sells technology to insurers. The company says half of all complaints now involve at least some AI tools. Auto insurance is “not something that you would necessarily assume to be very innovative and cutting edge, but it actually is,” says Fredman.
The changes are here to stay. Using AI and virtual estimations, “insurers have really seen improvements in efficiency, consistency and speed,” said Mark Friedlander, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. The technology is not meant to replace human workers, Friedlander says, but to help resolve complaints faster and consistently. The technology has produced “excellent results not only for insurers, but also for policyholders,” he says. These are automatic claims presented to the Millennium: fast and phone-based, with the fewest round-trip calls possible. According to CCC, internal surveys show that 80% of customers who request photos find the process “appealing to browse.”
Tractable, a company that uses computer vision and machine learning to build algorithms for insurance companies, says 25% of his estimates are so simple they don’t need human intervention. The company wants to increase that figure to 75% by the end of the year, says Alex Dalyac, CEO and co-founder of Tractable.
A group unhappy with the results: the bodybuilders. “I would say 99.9% of the estimates are incorrect,” says Jeff McDowell, owner of Leslie’s Auto Body in Fords, New Jersey. “You can’t diagnose suspension damage, a bent wheel, or frame misalignment from a photo.”
Repair shop owners say they spend significantly more time haggling with insurance companies to determine the correct price for a repair – time for which they are not compensated. In some cases, this means damaged vehicles are stranded in the workshop longer than usual.
Incomplete estimates can lead to incomplete repairs. Motorists sometimes bring their vehicles to Hernandez Collision Repair to make sure that work done by other shops has been done correctly. According to April Hernandez, whose family owns the business, the company’s two stores in Southeast Georgia have seen shoddy or incomplete work during the pandemic. She attributes the change to the photo-based estimates and the AI that is applied during the process. “I feel like it gets worse over time,” she said.
“A photo is worth a thousand words, but it doesn’t indicate the value of the damage,” says Mike LeVasseur, who heads the collision division of the Automotive Service Association, an industry trade group.
Virtual estimates work as follows: Many large insurance companies ask drivers who have been in accidents to download an app. The app asks them to take pictures of their cars from certain angles and from a certain light. Using only these photos, an insurance adjuster estimates how much it will cost to repair the car.
Photographic estimates make sense to insurers. In person, experts can come and inspect three to eight vehicles per day. With photos, adjusters don’t need cars or gas, just a computer, and can complete 15-20 estimates per day.