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The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technological advancement in many industries as businesses were forced to operate without face-to-face contact. The collision repair industry was no different.

Before the pandemic, about 15% of US auto claims were settled using photos rather than in-person visits by adjusters, Bill Brower, the head of Auto Claims at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data and analytics company, recently said that it is now  closer to 60%, and Brower expects it to reach 80% by 2025.

With this change in the industry, that has increased the investment in artificial intelligence by insurers and body shops, which would allow those photos to be compared with photos of previous accidents to help assess what the damage would be.

While insurers have begun to take advantage of the technology, the expansion isn’t happening as quickly. Solera, has announced a partnership with Five Star to implement its AI-based estimating system, Qapter, into one of the largest auto body shop networks in France.  It’s the first body shop network in France to use the AI system and it’s part of a larger effort to globalise it’s estimating process. It was the natural place to start, a spokeman said.

“Qapter’s rollout in the Five Star network fully aligns with our digital strategy. Supporting auto body mechanics through artificial intelligence to deliver estimates quickly and accurately will strengthen their credibility not only with customers, but with business providers as well.  This support is all the more significant in the implementation of our fast bodywork concept, Repair Zen,” President of GIE Five Star Alain Bessin said in a statement.

How does it work?

Photos of the vehicle, whether taken from the customer, assessors or body shop, can be entered into the system. From there, those photos will be automatically compared to the database, which has “one billion” photos and estimation reports.  Because of that, it will work for any type of repair.

Then the system will suggest what work needs to be done and propose a pre-estimate, including all the parts that will be needed and the amount of time it will take. However, that estimate is not final. The user will be able to go back into the estimate and make changes as they see fit, and the estimate will automatically adjust the other components to fit the changes that are made, a spokesman said. “The repairer will always have the choice,” he said.

Is it more efficient?

Throughout the rollout with Five Star along with Solera’s testing, they determined using the AI estimating system was 40% quicker. An average manual estimate took roughly 26 minutes, while using the intelligent estimating system took roughly 15 minutes on average. For some of the simplest claims, the estimate can be done within three minutes.

Another advantage that will come from AI estimating systems, is that it will allow estimates to be completed by workers who aren’t expert. A few photos are all that’s needed – so a shop receptionist, junior technician, apprentice or any other entry-level employee – could theoretically complete a sufficient estimate, especially for less complicated collisions and claims. That will also free up time from the top technicians to do more advanced work.

 

By Paul Hodowanic