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This new technology could save your life if your vehicle ends up in the water

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New technology to help drivers escape if their vehicle becomes submerged in water, has been developed by a company that works with the startup incubator Communitech in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

Automatic Window Opening Systems (AWOS) Technologies created the vehicle escape system that automatically lowers windows and connects to emergency services, assisting drivers and passengers with getting out safely.

A water rescue can be much more complicated when it involves a vehicle.

“What we’re finding now is more and more car manufacturers are making laminate glass as part of the door-window infrastructure,” explained Jim Petrik, the fire chief for Guelph/Eramosa Township. “What the challenge with that is, when we go to break the glass, it doesn’t shatter.”

The pressure from water pushing against a car can make it near impossible for the windows to open. And if the electrical systems malfunction, the windows may not work at all.

“If you have power-operating windows, which most vehicles have these days, sometimes that might not be operational,” added Petrik.

But AWOS co-founder Sabrina Percher said her company’s technology can prevent a vehicle from becoming a sinking trap.

“As soon as the vehicle hits the water, it will automatically lower windows within five seconds to allow people to safely exit the vehicle and call emergency services for help,” she explained.

A demonstration video shows the windows opening when the vehicle hits the water, and the driver is able to exit within eight seconds of impact.

The system is installed where the water would reach first – the heavy engine compartment. The technology is compatible with conventional, hybrid and electric vehicles and the smart sensors detect whether the vehicle is submerged upright or upside down.

If the vehicle lands upside down in the water and its windows are closed and remain intact, it will right itself by rolling to an upright position. With a built-in multi-axis inclinometer, AWOS recognizes inversion and delays the opening of the windows until the vehicle is in the upright position.

All of it is borne out of a personal story from Percher.

“When I was living in Saudi Arabia, my husband got caught in a flash flood. And I’ll never forget that phone call… to tell me that he was stuck in the car and that the water was rising,” she recalled.

Her husband survived but ever since, Percher has been focused on coming up with this lifesaving solution.

AWOS hopes it can become a safety standard system in vehicles within the next three to five years.

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