A guide to Roadside Assistance, its origins and history.

Roadside Assistance or Breakdown Assistance is an assortment of vehicle services that primarily assist motorists who are stranded on the road. The aim of Roadside Assistance is to get the vehicle moving again after fixing the issue on the spot, either to the original destination or to the nearest service station in case of a major issue.

Roadside Assistance could be described as a form of vehicle insurance. Popular companies whose primary business is to provide Roadside Assistance include the AA and RAC in the UK, and AAA in the USA. There has also been a rise in on-demand breakdown services in recent times. Urgent.ly in the USA offers emergency vehicle services without a subscription fee. Rescue offers both subscription-based Roadside Assistance and on-demand breakdown services in Bangalore. Automobile manufacturers may also offer such breakdown services free for a period after the purchase of a new vehicle.


A brief history of Roadside Assistance

As automobiles became more complex machines, early motorists found it harder to perform repairs by themselves. This slowly led to the formation of private clubs and groups of motorists to help each other out when they faced issues on the road.

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) which was formed in 1897 and The Automobile Association (AA) which was formed in 1905 (both in the UK) began offering repair services to their members on the spot, or towing services to a local garage or the driver’s home if nearby. The American Automobile Association (AAA) was formed in 1902 and Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC) was formed in 1927 offering similar services in Germany. Most of these early associations are pioneers in the field of Roadside Assistance and in existence to this day, some even branching out successfully into other allied services. These clubs provide their vehicle services through a fleet of assistance vehicles – traditionally motorcycles but today, increasingly in well-equipped vans and trucks.

As communication technology improved, a network of emergency phone boxes, placed by the roadside, was introduced in some countries. The widespread ownership of mobile phones has now eliminated the need for an emergency phone network. Further advancements in mobile technology have led to the development of app-based breakdown services with precise location tracking and other features making Roadside Assistance quicker and more efficient than ever.