It's the Swiss Army Knife of window breakers.
Ford has filed a patent for a window-breaking device, neatly disguised as a grab handle on the inside of a vehicle. CarBuzz discovered the patent, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
As you can see, the grab handle can be removed to function as a hammer tool for breaking windows. As Ford correctly states, escape hammers are pretty common, but this tool has a few tricks up its metaphorical sleeve. It can break a window with ease, and on the other side, it has a cutting tool designed specifically for cutting seat belt material. So far, nothing too unusual.
What makes this tool unique is the RF signal communication device for communicating with the drowning car. The signal can also be used to determine whether the occupant is still in the car or whether they successfully escaped. This will help emergency services locate said occupants of the vehicle. Ford's tool also comes with a battery and an LED light.
It's not a standalone device but works with sensors and communication devices in or on the car. The vehicle's accelerometer will detect when an accident has occurred and will unlock the tool. Being a sharp object, it's not something you want kids to have easy access to, and it still needs to function as a grab handle whenever you're not trapped in a car mimicking the Titanic. You also wouldn't want to be held to ransom by a hitchhiker using a piece of your own car.
As the car sinks, another sensor will monitor the water level. As soon as the water goes over the top of the wheels, it will trigger the emergency signal and illuminate the LED light. Following that, you're on your own. That's where the window breaker and cutter come into play.
If you get free, the signal will keep transmitting directly from the tool, as the locator on the car will likely malfunction at some point. This is also useful if you want to move away from the scene of an accident that's still dangerous.
The sketches depict a Ford Bronco, but this device can easily be disguised in every vehicle the automaker currently produces. Though uncommon, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a report stating that 384 people drowned in their cars between 2004 and 2007. There aren't many studies on the topic, and the general guesstimation these days is roughly 20 people annually. Australia is so concerned that it's even thinking of drowning cars as part of its Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
Obviously, this tool's use extends beyond escaping from a car in the water, but that seems to be the main aim considering the water sensors. Either way, it's a nifty tool to have in a car in case of any emergency requiring breaking a window, judging by the vast array of window breakers you can currently buy online.
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