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Survey: AI will supplement human estimators, not replace them

The majority of survey respondents think that AI technology will serve as a supplement to human estimators, but not replace them completely.

By Mike Davey

Hamilton, Ontario — October 24, 2017 — Humans aren’t obsolete when it comes to preparing estimates, but the majority of readers who responded to our most recent survey believe that artificial intelligence (AI) tools will someday supplement their abilities and make the process faster and more accurate.

Both Mitchell and CCC have recently announced estimating tools that rely on AI technology. CCC’s tool uses past crash data to determine if a car is a total loss based on a single photo uploaded by the motorist. Mitchell’s tool is for insurers, and focuses on reducing the amount of time used to review and approve estimates. However, Mitchell’s tool will be available to bodyshops, allowing them to double-check and improve the accuracy of their repair or replace decisions.

These advances in AI led us to wonder if humans could eventually be replaced by computers. Collision Repair magazine surveyed our readers, and it looks like the answer is “Not completely.” The majority of readers (78 percent) think that technology will serve as a supplement to human estimators, but not replace them. The next most popular answer was “No, human judgment is too valuable for certain situations” at 18 percent. Finally, some respondents do believe that the technology will eventually be good enough for this, but they’re definitely in the minority (just 4 percent).

One of the follow-up questions asked why the majority believe computers won’t replace humans in estimating. Please note that respondents could choose more than one answer for this question, so the percentages do not add up to 100 percent.

Literally every person who answered this question indicated that “Each collision is unique. Estimating the actual damage requires a human touch.” That was the most popular answer, but “Customer service reasons. Motorists want to talk to a human being and receive actual care” scored nearly as well, drawing 84 percent. A significant percentage (62 percent) believe that “It would cost too much for the shop to use the technology.” Finally, 40 percent of respondents believe the technology won’t replace humans, but it will make them faster and more accurate. You can see these responses in the chart below. 

WhyNoAIEstimators LG  
   

We also asked survey respondents to let us know how soon they would expect to see a tool launched that supplements human estimators’ abilities. The majority of respondents (69 percent) believe it will be three years or more before we see something like this, with an additional 14 percent saying it will be launched within two years. The most optimistic group stands at 17 percent and believes we’ll see something released within the next year. Frankly, we think that’s the smart bet. The technology is moving very quickly and some companies may have products nearly ready to launch.

Collision Repair magazine runs new surveys every week. Our next survey looks at community engagement practices. Do you sponsor sports teams, raise money for the local hospital or put in volunteer hours beautifying the community? Take the survey and let us know, and make sure to watch for the results next Wednesday on collisionrepairmag.com!

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