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State Farm patents technology to monitor vehicles’ ‘autonomous operation’ features

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State Farm has been granted a patent for technology that could monitor the status of the “autonomous operation” features of its customers’ vehicles, in order to adjust premiums based on calculated risk level.

The technology would also allow the system to try to diagnose and correct problems it detects with the vehicles’ sensors, including the calibration of one or more sensors.

Indications of maintenance performed on the vehicle could be transmitted to a server, for a determination of whether risk levels, and the cost associated with the policy, should be adjusted.

The patent language seems to assume that the operation of autonomous or semi-autonomous driving features would improve vehicle safety, thereby reducing risk and the cost of the policy.

“Operator error, inattention, inexperience, misuse, or distraction leads to many vehicle accidents each year, resulting in injury and damage,” the patent states. “Autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles augment vehicle operators’ information or replace vehicle operators’ control commands to operate the vehicle in whole or part with computer systems based upon information from sensors within the vehicle.”

The technology would directly tie the functioning of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) components to the cost of an individual policy. To date, research has centered on the effects of ADAS technology on crash rates.

“Past and current premium determination methods do not …account for use of autonomous vehicle operating features. The present embodiments may… alleviate this and/or other drawbacks associated with conventional techniques,” the patent states.

This raises some interesting points. Does this mean that State Farm acknowledges the need to ensure that these safety systems operate as they were designed after a collision? And, if State Farm denies a body shop’s charge for replacing or calibrating a scanner, would it then charge the policyholder more for the additional risk?

Repairer Driven News reached out to State Farm with that question but did not receive a response by deadline.

According to the most recent “Who Pays for What?” survey on scanning and calibration, State Farm was the least likely of the carriers rated to reimburse shops for sensor calibration, with 82.8% of shops reporting that it pays “always” or “most of the time.”

State Farm said its patent may be related to “driverless operation, accident avoidance, or collision warning systems” that either provide assistance to the driver or take full control of the vehicle.

It said consumers might opt into a program that would provide insurance discounts in exchange for allowing their data to be shared with their carrier.

As described in the patent, the system would work in this way: An onboard computer, mobile device, or server connected to the vehicle would receive a request to determine the operating status of the vehicle’s features. It would then send a test signal, and generate a report based on the information received. The report would be stored in memory for future use, and presented to the driver.

The system might also send the report to a server, which “may further receive one or more indications of maintenance performed on the autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle” and determine whether the cost of the policy should be adjusted.

The cost associated with the insurance policy might include a premium, a discount, a surcharge, a rate level, a cost based upon a distance traveled, a cost based upon a vehicle trip, and/or a cost based upon the duration of vehicle operation.

The patent envisions a system that can detect, “diagnose and/or correct problems with autonomous operation features.” For instance, if a sensor is impaired by snow, mud, or other environmental factors, a “remediation module” could try to make corrections, including potential calibration of the sensor.

The language goes into no detail on how this would be carried out, including whether OEM procedures would be used in the diagnosis, repair, and calibration.

The system would be triggered by specific events, such as when the vehicle was turned on or turned off, or when it became involved in an accident.

The patent, number 11494175, was filed Oct. 21, 2020, and published online on Nov. 8, 2022.

More information

UK research finds use of 6 ADAS features would reduce crashes by nearly 24%


Featured image by metamorworks/iStock

This chart visually compares the relative payment frequencies of each insurer based on a composite score of all responses. (CRASH Network and Collision Advice)

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