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A Crash Course: What You Need to Know About New Automated Safety Systems (cont.)

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ADDING UP. Most ADAS features are optional purchases for consumers, and Zuby and other experts say the ADAS feature packages add an average of $2,000 to the price of a vehicle. Features that warn you of dangers cost less than do features that can take partial control of your vehicle when a problem arises: the more sensors and cameras that an ADAS feature includes, the more that it will cost. For example, a Mercedes-Benz package that has numerous ADAS features costs $2,800–$3,270, depending on the vehicle. A simpler package that has only blind-spot detection and a lane-keeping feature costs $875.

EYES AROUND YOU. Automakers' blind-spot detection feature alerts you via a small light near your exterior mirror if another vehicle moves into a dangerous position.

EYES AROUND YOU. Automakers' blind-spot detection feature alerts you via a small light near your exterior mirror if another vehicle moves into a dangerous position.


You likely won’t be able to pick and choose one or two ADAS features, either. Many features employ the same sensors, so they tend to come in packages. As a result, it’s likely that if you want, say, adaptive cruise control, you also will get—and have to pay for—a lane-departure warning feature and a blind-spot detection feature, Alexander says. Luxury brands, naturally, tend to take this to an extreme. They often will lump in ADAS features with trim packages that include interior wood trim, leather seats or other cosmetic features.

The good news, according to experts with whom we spoke, is that, as manufacturing of ADAS expands, prices for the features are likely to fall. Wallace says new technologies might drive down costs even faster. He points to a new lidar system, which uses lasers instead of radar’s radio waves to detect nearby objects and map a vehicle’s surroundings. French company Valeo developed the system, and it will cost manufacturers only about $250. A comparable system that’s on Google’s self-driving test vehicle costs about $70,000. Meanwhile, all semiconductor prices dropped about 10 percent in the past 2 years and are expected to fall another 3 percent in 2014, according to industry researcher IC Insights. As these costs go down, manufacturers will add more sensors to vehicles, says Richard Barrett of Broadcom, which manufactures wireless components for vehicles.

Adam Kopstein of Volvo says the savings are being passed on to customers. He points to the company’s Technology Package, which includes ADAS features. The package cost $2,100 in 2010. Today, the same features come in a $1,500 package.

INSURERS UNSURE. Insurance companies like the idea of ADAS, but that doesn’t mean that you should expect a discount on your automobile insurance rates if you buy a vehicle that has ADAS features. Four of the five insurance companies with which we spoke say they don’t provide incentives for ADAS-equipped vehicles, because the technologies haven’t been proven.

“When we believe there is a positive overall impact from the technology, we will likely offer lower prices to customers who purchase vehicles” that include ADAS features, says Danny Miller, who is a spokesperson for Esurance. He didn’t provide a timeline. Other insurance companies say they wait for each make and model to prove its safety record before they re-examine rates for a particular vehicle.

Liberty Mutual was the only company that we found that provides discounts for vehicles that have adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, blind-spot detection, collision-avoidance systems and lane-departure warning as standard features. The company says discounts vary by state and policy levels. We found that in Illinois, a vehicle that has all of these features could save you up to 20 percent on your premium, but we weren’t able to break down what each feature would save you. You should keep in mind that vehicles that have ADAS features tend to be more expensive than those that don’t, and more-expensive vehicles typically trigger higher automobile insurance rates.

Other expenses should be considered, too. Even though ADAS features are designed to reduce the frequency of accidents, the added cost of their repair if an accident occurs could wipe out any insurance savings, says Bill Windsor of Nationwide Mutual Insurance. He cites this as a reason why Nationwide doesn’t provide ADAS discounts.

Wallace says most ADAS features can be repaired only at dealerships, which limits your option of repair facilities. The parts also are pricey. Greg Horn of Mitchell International, which tracks data for insurance companies and repair facilities, says a sideview mirror that has to be replaced on a standard vehicle would cost up to $600. If the mirror contained cameras, then that repair would cost up to $1,200, he says.

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