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New cars come with airbags pretty much as standard these days. Designed to inflate on impact, these pillows have saved many a life.
A driver that comes off a road and into a body of water however, is afforded little protection. Sure, airbags might inflate to protect him/her from the imploding windscreen(windshield),
but the greatest danger in such a situation is from the car sinking and the driver not escaping the vehicle.
The driver is trapped : firstly, most cars now have electronic management systems which, when combined with water, disable and enable car doors and windows which hampers any escape. Secondly, the water pressure against a door may render it unopenable. Thirdly, a sinking car drags water and people down with it, should you escape the car. It's enormously scary.
All this could be avoided if the car floats and is stable. Introducing, the submerged protection airbag. Should you be unlucky enough to leave the road and end up in water, these underside, side mounted bags inflate. They are large enough to hold the car above dangerous levels and keep the car stable. Should one not inflate, the car would lurch to one side, but at least one door would remain high enough to ensure that the doors could be opened.
In the UK alone in 2001, 25 people died as a result of drowning in cars. This initiative would therefore save 1000s of lives every year worldwide.
[Fussass, Oct 04 2004]
UK Deaths from Drowning Stats
Not common, but significant worldwide numbers. [jonthegeologist, Oct 04 2004]
Car flotation airbag system
almost identical idea [FarmerJohn, Oct 04 2004]
If you're not one to wait around to be rescued, you could take matters into your own hands with one of these, or decide to refurbish an old Amphicar. [jurist, Oct 04 2004]
||Some cars already float, a BMW which overshot into a canal floated happily downstream and the headlights still worked. The father and son were seen and rescued.
+ for your idea though.
||I'm curious as to how many people actually die each year as a result of driving into water. I would think it's comparatively rare.
||You don't really want to mount them on the *underside* of the car, do you? I'm also a little worried about how big these would have to be (how much gas would you need to inflate them? Where would they deploy to avoid blocking doors? What happens if you drive into narrow body of water like a canal and the bags can't fully inflate?). And would they be able to right the car if it goes in upside down, because you don't want to be trapped floating upside down?
||Further nitpick: if they're inflated, the door will be partially underwater and thus almost impossible to open; but you could still exit through the window.
||But then again, I'm sure people said the same things about conventional airbags.
||[Ling]s raft ideas have made us all more fearful of drowning. Floats suitable for this are required equipment on helicopters for some operations. They use a nitrogen bottle and water activated switches. It would be easy to make them less expensive.
||How deep would the water have to be to activate the floatation device? I see many more cars stranded in one foot of water than I see floating cars -- of course, I see way too many of both.
||you're better off getting a ring-pull window opener like they have (did I dream it) on coaches and the like, so one quick tug and the front or back windscreen falls out. Better still, once the car's been pulled from the water again, you can just replace the glass with just a new seal.
<aside>were any of them suicide ?</aside>