C&B Notes

Another Algorithm Application

Geico’s new partnership with Tractable is a different application of algorithms beyond user engagement.  Akin to advances in medicine where computers pattern-match scans to diagnose conditions, Geico and other auto insurers are using technology to speed the insurance claims and repair process.  This win-win approach is both consumer and cost-friendly. 

Geico, the nation’s second-biggest auto insurer, will try to speed up vehicle repairs for its policyholders by running photographs of damaged vehicles through artificial-intelligence software. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.-owned Geico will offer the quick-estimate process in partnership with Tractable Ltd., said Alex Dalyac, chief executive and founder of the London-based technology firm. Tractable is among a number of specialists trying to help car insurers use artificial intelligence and other techniques to eliminate time-consuming hassles when customers file accident claims… 

Under Tractable’s approach, an auto-body shop would send in photographs of a damaged vehicle to Geico with its repair estimate. From there, algorithms would assess the severity of the damage and any necessary repairs, which the algorithms have learned from reviewing millions of historical estimates and photos, Tractable said. The repair estimate could be confirmed within minutes. If the artificial intelligence notices an issue with the estimate, it provides information to a human Geico adjuster, who can then review the damage and repairs with the shop. Repairs can start immediately if the estimate is confirmed, quickening the process of getting a car back on the road. 

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Mr. Buffett’s insurer, Geico, was behind rival Progressive Corp. in embracing telematics, a way to collect information about mileage and an owner’s driving habits directly from a vehicle. During each of the past two Berkshire annual meetings, Mr. Buffett has addressed Geico’s hesitance and said it was a mistake. 

At this year’s meeting, Berkshire Vice Chairman Ajit Jain said Geico will make improvements. “Geico had clearly missed the bus and were late in terms of appreciating the value of telematics,” he said. Geico, Mr. Jain added, has “a number of initiatives, and hopefully they will see the light of day before not too long.” Geico’s decision is one of many that car insurers are grappling with as more technology becomes available. The insurers’ move into artificial intelligence is aimed at eliminating common, frustrating experiences for policyholders in filing claims. In the most time-consuming steps under conventional practice, adjusters make appointments to meet policyholders in person to inspect a damaged vehicle, or visit a body shop where the vehicle has been towed. The process can take days to complete. 

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