Australia is no stranger to flooding. In terms of elevation, it’s the single lowest continent above sea level, and it sees about as much rainfall in a year as New York City — which, of course, has floods of its own. In the face of all those waterlogged roads, Australian crash test authorities have a solution for keeping passengers safe: New testing will encourage automakers to make sure passengers can escape a car even after it’s been sitting in deep floodwater for several minutes.
The Australian New Car Assessment Program (basically, Australia’s version of the IIHS) will begin testing new cars to ensure that the average passenger can escape even when the car is stuck in deep water. ANCAP has developed a two-pronged testing strategy targeting multiple methods of egress, according to New Zealand Autocar.
First, ANCAP wants to ensure that a vehicle’s doors can be opened without electric power. Most cars’ electrical systems remain usable for a period of time after the car is submerged, but the Australian authority demands a failsafe: Cars with electronic door handles are required to have a fully mechanical backup for use in emergencies.
Of course, opening your car’s door underwater isn’t always an option. Water pressure outside the car will make it incredibly difficult to push the door open. If the doors can’t be opened, ANCAP wants car occupants to have another means of escape: The windows.
With the new guidelines, ANCAP’s highest safety rating will go to cars with power windows that remain operable for ten minutes underwater, to allow passengers ample opportunity to roll down the windows and get out. In the event that the car’s electronics fail, and power windows are no longer operational, the agency will recommend every new car include a method for shattering the window: a safety hammer, a mechanical shattering device, or even good old-fashioned explosives.
As the planet continues to heat up, flooding will only become more frequent. More rapid evaporation, paired with heavier rainfall, will make dry areas dryer and wet areas wetter. In the absence of any climate change mitigation efforts, these kinds of individual safety measures will become increasingly necessary.