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For today's cars, more safety means higher insurance costs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Normally, making something safer means reducing the amount of money you need to pay to insure it. But that's not the case with today's autos.

The big picture: As cars evolve from being mostly mechanical to being computers on wheels, they become increasingly fragile, especially around the periphery. A CPU can sit safely in the center of the vehicle, but the sensors can't.

  • Chips and dents aren't cosmetic any more. They can easily push sensors out of alignment, or even break them entirely.
  • Repair bills have doubled as a result, according to AAA.
  • A windshield is no longer just a windshield. Today, it can house sensors for automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems. That's h0w a $200 windshield repair becomes $1,500 or more.
  • In the age of distracted driving, the most common collision is when the car behind you hits your rear bumper at low speed. That could cost $3,500 to repair if the ultrasonic system for parking assistance is damaged as well as rear radar sensors used for blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerting. And that's if you can find a mechanic qualified to make such repairs.

The bottom line: Modern cars, equipped with modern electronics, are genuinely safer. They save lives and could prevent millions of injuries. But insurance doesn't just cover damage to humans. It covers damage to cars, too, and those costs are only going up.

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