Will ‘Car Cocoons’ Protect Vehicles From Future Super Storms?
Images of vehicles thrown around like a child’s collection of toy cars permeated news venues for weeks after Super Storm Sandy hit. Why? Because it was hard to believe that hundreds of thousands of motor vehicles could be tossed about in such a manner. Many of those same vehicles were later declared as total losses by those who insured them. No one yet knows how much Sandy will cost insurance companies because only a fraction of the data is in, but just the destroyed motor vehicles alone will almost certainly total up to hundreds of millions of dollars. Could those losses have been prevented?
Severe weather and other natural disasters have become a real issue for many insurance companies as the past century has seen record breaking numbers of these occurrences. Some have tried to deal with the problem by limiting the scope of their coverage using the old ‘Act of God’ excuse, but in a highly competitive industry that has not proven to be a successful resolution to the problem. Others are looking at some new and innovative ways to protect motor vehicles from nature’s wrath.
According to the North American Insurance Institute several major and as yet unnamed insurance providers have funded research to find ways to better protect motor vehicles of all sizes and types from natural disasters. One such idea involves the creation of a ‘car cocoon’ which would allow the owner of a motor vehicle to seal their car, truck or motorcycle in a kind of manufactured igloo designed to protect it from excessive movement or damage. Advances in chemical research has created the opportunity to manufacture materials designed specifically for that purpose at a relatively low cost.
The idea is to place or even drive a vehicle into a protective cocoon which would be flood and relatively crush proof, keep the vehicle from being over-turned or moved in a manner that could cause damage and still allow easy access to it after the disaster ended. There are many variables to consider when designing this type of a specialized structure. No one is exactly sure how practical this system would be considering the way that vehicles were moved around by water and winds during Sandy. However, if even a thousand vehicles could be saved out of ten thousand that would mean that the owners and insurance providers of those vehicles would be spared the nightmare currently facing everyone who had to deal with the aftermath of Sandy.
Cocoons are not the only idea on the table. Some enterprising entrepreneurs have suggested creating special flood proof underground storage facilities for everything from motor vehicles to the treasured possessions and heir looms of potential natural disaster victims. The downside of that idea is that most of these underground facilities would have to be located some distance from most urban areas in order to be financially feasible to build, maintain and protect from debris.
Most existing under or above ground storage facilities located in potential storm and disaster zones in urban settings are not flood resistant enough to serve the same purpose. They also may be as prone to disaster damage as other facilities or buildings in their areas. Converting them might be cost prohibitive or even impossible without a complete and far too expensive rebuild. As always, the real question is ‘Who will pay for the technology needed to protect motor vehicles from natural disasters?’
Insurance companies are businesses that need to make money. Owners need their vehicles to get around. Those have always been the facts that create and carefully balance the relationship between the Insurer and the Insured. When you throw a natural disaster like Sandy into the mix things get a bit more convoluted. Insurance companies will save money if they do not have to pay out for damage, but only if a device like a ‘car cocoon’ really works and does not cost too much. If motor vehicle owners are forced to pay for those devices, they would certainly insist on a significant premium reduction as a reward.
After the terrible lessons learned from Sandy everyone agrees that people, vehicles and property have to be better protected from natural disasters for the sake of all involved, but how that will happen is a problem which may take decades to solve. You can’t hide from nature. The best anyone can do at this point is to take as many precautions as possible to protect yourself, your family and your possessions from natural disasters using the technology currently available. Let’s just hope that ideas like car cocoons or special underground storage facilities eventually become a reality so that we can move on quickly after any disaster instead of being mired in paperwork and trying to figure out how to rebuilt or get back on the road.