Published: 17th April 2019
Two students of SSN Institutions have come up with a technology that helps you escape from sinking cars
With this technology, the roof of the car automatically opens up when it begins to get submerged in water
With the frequent floodings that have wrecked several parts of the nation in the last few years, a common sighting has been that of vehicles sinking and people being trapped inside. Hoping to improve the safety of vehicles during times of such natural disasters, two students of SSN Institutions, Vishal B and Neil Ashwin Raj, have come up with a life-saving mechanism. Excerpts from an informative conversation:
What was the need you saw that motivated you to invent this safety mechanism?
The idea originated from the 2015 floods that affected Tamil Nadu. A lot of cars had sunk and people were trapped inside. We took a survey of the number of accidents that happened by drowning. We found out then that there is no mechanism that enables people to escape safely from sinking cars. So that motivated us to create a safety mechanism that can be implemented in existing cars and not just in new cars. This mechanism not only helps a person get out of the car when it's sinking, but also in case of an accident when the doors are jammed.
So, what's the principle behind it?
We analysed all the possible sinking orientations — basically the way the car enters the waterbody — and irrespective of the orientation, we found that a car will try to stabilise itself because of its centre of gravity. It doesn't sink to the bottom of the waterbody, instead it tries to float. In that situation, opening the door or breaking the glass isn't advisable. So, we placed sensors within the car in strategic locations. These sensors will automatically open the roof of the car when it is subjected to water pressure. There's a small time gap between when the car touches the water and when it becomes completely submerged. It's during that duration that the sensor activates the roof.
The innovative duo: Vishal B and Neil Ashwin Raj, students of SSN Institution
What type of technology does this mechanism employ?
We've used hydraulic pistols for the opening of the roof and the sensors placed around the periphery of the car are controlled by Arduino microcontrollers.
Have you tested it?
Yes, we have. We modified the roof of an actual car and used screen belts to submerge the car in a waterbody near our college. We tried two different orientations and proved that the roof will automatically open when the car is subjected to water pressure.
What was the damage, financially?
It cost us about '20,000. The main cost was the load sensors that we placed near the suspension system. Also, the entire roof needs to be cut without destroying the rest of the frame.
How do you plan to introduce it into the market?
We've patented our idea and plan to approach some of the car companies. We are in the process of figuring out how to make it a more commercial technology that also has aesthetic appeal. Our main aim is to improve safety.