Airbag bike helmet seeks to bolster safety
An EU-funded project has created an airbag bike helmet that is eight times safer than its traditional counterparts. It is both comfortable and attractive in a bid to motivate more people to cycle responsibly.
In Europe today, cycling is seen as a sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of transport. However, it comes with serious safety concerns related to traffic accidents in urban areas.
When cyclists hit their heads they can suffer from concussion, one of the major forms of brain injury. But despite this risk, many bikers decide not to wear protective helmets, dismissing them as cumbersome and unattractive.
In a bid to boost the safety of cyclists, an EU-funded project known as THE INVISIBLE HELMET has developed an airbag that is worn around the neck and expands in the event of an accident, becoming both thicker and softer than a traditional helmet. It reduces the risk of concussion by up to eight times and almost completely eliminates the risk of skull fracture.
We have made what some said was impossible, possible, says Fredrik Carling, project lead and chief executive of Swedish company Hövding that makes the helmets. We have developed the airbag technology so that it is activated in the event of a collision and is more effective than traditional bike helmets.
The product is now being sold in 16 countries and half of all wearers did not previously don protective helmets.
The project team developed the expanding airbag helmet using high-rate sensors and high energy density batteries. They proved the concept and created an expanding airbag, which is now certified and approved.
Independent tests, carried out at Stanford University in the United States, found it to be far more effective than standard helmets made from expanded polystyrene foam and stated that it is "near perfect in terms of protecting against concussion and head injuries caused by accidents.
Further developments to the helmet known as Hövding mean that it is made of one piece of woven fabric and can be manufactured in bulk, making it cheaper and more accessible to users.
Next up? Interaction
Going forward, the helmet will be enhanced with interactive features.
There is now an opportunity for the invisible helmet to speak to the user, says Carling. We want to connect it to the surrounding world so that it can interact with traffic to ease movement and avoid dangerous traffic situations.
The product will also be able to connect to smartphones and apps, which adds to its potential for development, he adds.
Hövding has already created an app that has helped map out dangerous interchanges and traffic trouble spots in London. In a 2016 campaign, cyclists were encouraged to Give a beep on the Flic app whenever they encountered a risky situation. The data was subsequently shared with policymakers in a bid to bolster the safety of the citys biking infrastructure.
Hövding is giving back to communities across the world. In exchange for helping the company gather data, it is donating money to good causes on behalf of everyday bikers. In Sweden, for example, funding goes towards cycling schemes for immigrants. Donations also support a project in Africa that helps children commute to school by providing them with bikes.