In 2017, Ping An, China’s second-largest insurer and its biggest non-state-owned company by revenue, rolled out a “Superfast Onsite Investigation” system—enabling policyholders to submit claims by simply opening a smartphone app and answering a few questions. But the app’s niftiest feature offers the option to not even wait for an inspector. Instead, customers can snap photos of a damaged vehicle and send them to a Ping An computer, which can respond with a repair estimate in three minutes or less. If the customer accepts the estimate, then wancheng! (“Done!”) Ping An can transfer funds immediately.
Last year, Ping An’s customers used this feature to settle 7.3 million claims, or 62% of the total. The service saves the company more than $750 million each year by reducing bogus claims and human error. But its simplicity belies the extraordinary sophistication of the artificial intelligence and data processing operations that make it possible.
To generate accurate estimates, Ping An matches photos of vehicle damage against a database of 25 million parts used in the 60,000 different auto makes and models sold in China. The system assesses whether those parts can be r