Automobiles have had insurance almost from the beginning because citizens objected to the noisy contraptions that went faster than horse-drawn conveyances and that could develop dangerous mechanical problems. That is not to say that a runaway horse was not a hazard, but automobiles were strictly mechanical, and could not make decisions for themselves. Nor could they steer themselves for a tired worker or an inexperienced driver. Insurance covered liability should the vehicle harm people or property, but it did not usually take care of mechanical repairs.
Safety in Numbers: Automobile Clubs and Roadside Assistance
Early automobiles were simple machines compared to the sophisticated vehicles of today. They could often be temporarily repaired with some wire or even a bit of rope, depending on what the problem might be. Sometimes, all that was really needed was a second person to turn the starter crank. Automobile owners banded together, forming clubs to help each other out. Two early British auto clubs were the RAC (Royal Auto Club) and the AA (Auto Association). In the United States, there were also associations that formed, including AAA, sometimes called Triple A or the American Auto Association. These names are likely to be familiar to auto owners today since they were the beginnings of modern breakdown cover or roadside assistance.
Formalizing a Good Thing
It was not long before these clubs and their subscribers created rules, set prices on services and generally formalized breakdown or roadside services. While this could have its downside, it also made the services more reliable and cost-efficient. In the long run, it has meant that subscribers can count on having someone they can call in an emergency.
Calling for Help
When automobiles were new, so was telephone service. Telephones had to be connected with wires, and almost no one had a mobile or portable telephone. Consequently, one of the things that some of the clubs did was to provide call boxes along the roads or streets. Eventually, these would become coin-operated payphones.
As mobile phones became smaller, more convenient and easier to use, thanks to wireless technology and other inventions, the pay-phone began to disappear. Whereas payphones or call boxes could be found on nearly any street corner, they are almost non-existent today.
Even ordinary insurance policies these days issue a telephone number that can be called at any time, day or night, in the event of an emergency, you can even cover your motorbike. For a breakdown cover, a phone number and a phone is almost a necessity because you need a way to get in touch with your insurer in times of need.
While self-driving vehicles are not yet ready for general use, cars have acquired a lot of added equipment over the years. From anti-pollution devices to extra lights, proximity alarms, backup cameras, air conditioning, and more, your vehicle can do a lot that your grandparents never even dreamed of their jalopy being able to manage.
OnStar and Other Dashboard Calling Devices
When a driver is incapacitated for any reason, he or she might not be able to make a phone call. The phone might be out of reach, the driver could be unconscious. When this happens, it can be a real blessing for your vehicle to make a call or for the absence of a response from your vehicle to create an emergency alert. While not a substitute for a live person stopping to see if you are hurt or need help, it can bring assistance to your side.
After all, when the bottom line is reached, the whole point of breakdown cover or roadside assistance is to get help to you when you need it.