Technology-Aided Damage Assessment: Using 3D Scanners to Optimize Hail Damage Claim Processes on Vehicles
by Allyssa Haygood-Taylor
When dealing with a weather damaged vehicle, customers understandably have high expectations for assessing the damage to estimate repair costs. Technology may provide a more consistent and accurate method to hail damage assessment compared to traditional approaches using the skilled eye of an agent. To address this issue, Clemson University and Ally Financial have partnered in an effort to improve the process for these types of assessments. The Improving the Automotive Hail Damage Claim Process Using 3D Scanner Technology Corporate Creative Inquiry project led by Dr. Rachel Anderson in the Academic Success Center, and Dr. Todd Schweisinger in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is investigating solutions for assessing hail-damaged vehicles.
The team is primarily focusing on using hand-held 3D scanning technology to assess vehicle body damage from hail. Before scanning vehicles, the team validated their methodology by scanning controlled dents on metal surfaces. They conducted a series of trials, dropping metal balls on metal sheets as well as a variety of car parts. “With the damaged metal sheets, we use a 3D scanner and calculate the time it took to scan, the correct lighting needed and if it was able to pick up even minute damage,” Jared Gaidjunas, a sophomore bioengineering major, explained. The team also had the opportunity to analyze actual hail damage on a vehicle belonging to a student on the team.
Students in this project are split into three teams but all work together. The three sub-teams are the time and cost analysis team, the software team and the scanner performance team. Even with team separation, this Creative Inquiry project prides itself on fostering a collaborative environment. “Though we’re assigned different tasks, we are all working to interface with the scanner and the software itself to quantify dents for assessment,” Hunter Harkins, a sophomore general engineering major, said.
In these teams, the students are all addressing potential inefficient assessments from different angles whether it be through actual damage experimentation or software testing. Ultimately, they are working towards determining what scanner and software combination can best quickly and efficiently count and then quantify repair costs, even for the tiniest dent.
The team is fortunate to have weekly web conferences with representatives from Ally Financial. These meetings allow the students to interact and collaborate with the company directly. “Collaborating with students and faculty over the last two semesters was a wonderful experience. The entire team took an interest in Ally and asked many questions to understand our requirements. There was a spirit of teamwork that helped the students to look at hail damage scanning from different perspectives, which allowed them to make insightful recommendations. This included discoveries of what would work best as well as findings where scanning would be limited. Overall, the team was very engaged and pressed forward virtually once the pandemic occurred. A side benefit of the project was allowing students to learn more about Ally and what we do. We all had fun and found the program to be rewarding,” Paul Sipes, Ally Insurance Field Operations Manager, said.
Eventually, the team hopes to present Ally Financial with an optimal solution for making their damage assessment process more accurate, time efficient and cost efficient. Ultimately, this Creative Inquiry team works to offer an in-depth, technology-aided system that optimizes 3D scanners and software to be used by Ally Financial in vehicle assessments. Though this Creative Inquiry’s research is currently focused on creating accurate repair estimates for hail damage of a single vehicle, in the future, their studies could be used for field claims of hail damage to multiple vehicles such as at car dealerships.
Barbara J. Speziale