"A flooded car is a useless car"
Firsthand image of Hurricane Harvey flooding (taken by me from my house during flood)
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Idea (hoping to get started in the future)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
“During Hurricane Harvey, both my house and neighborhood flooded. However, the loss of our cars in addition to the loss of our house was like a double gut punch. Without cars, we were stranded at a friend’s home, completely reliant on them for our most basic needs, such as food, clothes, and shelter. Additionally, we could not find a car for weeks, as the high demand for rental cars caused a major shortage in the number of cars available. This severely delayed our timeline for repairing our house. Ever since that day, we’ve always agreed that if we could have saved our cars, our house and our life might have been repaired by now (9 months after the flood).” -Shomik Ghose
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
We are trying to prevent car flooding both in order to save money and to ensure a quick repair schedule for flood victims in Houston and around the world. The problem has not and will not be solved by raising houses: newer, higher houses designed to prevent flooding don’t have their garages raised, so the cars in these houses still flood. For example, over 80,000 homes were flooded during Hurricane Harvey but over 500,000 cars were flooded.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
For only $400 (projected price), customers in flood prone areas all over the world can install FloodLift, a innovative hydraulic lift system, attached to the bottom of their car. The lift system, when activated during flooding, can lift the car anywhere from 1-5 feet, depending on the size of the car (larger cars don’t require as much lifting). The lift works simply: First, the bottom of the lift will lower and anchor to the ground. Next, the top of the lift will rise and lift the car. The lift system, which will be made out of a rust-resistant steel alloy, will last the entirety of the car’s lifetime and is reusable, only needing to be repurchased when a customer buys a new car. In its startup stages, the lift can be produced at makerspaces such as TXRX Labs with steel supplied by a local steel manufacturer, Werther International. Later, the lift can be produced through an assembly line setup in a factory. The lift will be sold both directly to consumers and to dealerships, who can install the lift.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
Hypothetical Example: George is buying a new car. After he selects the one he wants, the dealership offers an add-on: for $400-500 (depending on how much the dealer charges for installation), he can get FloodLift attached to his car in order to prevent his car from flooding during natural disasters. If he purchases FloodLift, he will also receive lower insurance premiums (we would pay a roughly 10% commission to the insurance for this). George thinks it's a good idea and buys FloodLift. When his area is flooded due to a hurricane or flash flood (heavy rain, river overflow, etc...), he goes to his car and activates FloodLift (it can be activated on a driveway or on a street). His car rises 1-5 feet above the water and avoids flood damage. FloodLift saves George from monetary loss (insurance often does not cover the true value of a car) and prevents him from being in a difficult situation.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
There is only one other viable anti-car-flooding prevention product available to customers: Extreme Vehicle Protection (EVP). EVP is essentially like a huge plastic bag to encase the car. Our product, however, is superior due to 3 key reasons. First, our product offers a purchasing incentive for customers through lowered car insurance premiums. EVP offers no such incentive for customers. Secondly, EVP can be torn by sharp objects or be moved during flooding. Our product is much more durable and will never break or malfunction. Third, our product is easily activated with the touch of a button.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Our product has the potential to make a huge difference. Flooding is the most common and most harmful natural disaster in the US. Over 500,000 cars were damaged by Hurricane Harvey alone, and according to a 2018 study by the University of Bristol, the number of Americans who live in flood prone areas could rise from 41 million (now) to 51.5 million, or 1/6 of the US population, by 2050. Furthermore, FEMA estimates that climate change will increase the number of areas in the US at risk of flooding by 45% by 2100. Worldwide, more than 1 billion people will live in risk of catastrophic flooding by 2060. Clearly, there are many people nationally and worldwide who need our product to save their cars. We can quantify our difference through financially estimating the money lost due to flooding: if the loss is decreasing, we can conclude that our product is working.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
The biggest step in taking our product to the next level is actually building it. We are in the process of contacting mechanical engineers at local colleges and we have identified a nearby makerspace (called TXRX Labs) at which we could begin building both a prototype and our first lift. After we build our product, we would establish a partnership with insurance companies to provide lower car insurance premiums for customers with the lift. The insurance companies would be incentivized to enter such a partnership because they lose massive amounts of money due to flooding every year. Such a partnership would be a win-win for insurance companies and for consumers, who are both saving money on premiums and saving their car from damage.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
To make our vision a reality, we need skilled engineers who are willing to assist us with building and developing our product. We currently have 2 team members, but would be willing to add the engineers to our team. Most importantly, we need seed funding to attract the engineers and to pay the initial production costs. Lastly, we need to establish our partnerships with insurance and dealerships in order to complete the supply chain. Any amount of seed funding could help us progress in the right direction. We also plan to establish a website for our product. We would also like to consult with patent lawyers in order to protect our product.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
We could partner with other organizations seeking to mitigate flood damage, such as to infrastructure (office buildings, homes, etc...). We could also partner with organizations seeking to provide resources such as food, clothing, shelter, and financial aid to those affected by catastrophic flooding. We could partner with environmental organizations to work to reduce the risk of flooding due to climate change.
How did you hear about this challenge?