Cyclists, Bikers get Airbag Protection

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An increase in carbon emissions from vehicles is driving several companies and residential colonies to promote cycling for shorter distances. However, the sheer lack of safety measures when riding on busy roads is deterring cycling enthusiasts from taking up the two-wheeler. Only 1% of all trips in the US are by bicycle. Statistics show that in 2014 more than 50,000 bicyclist injuries were reported, many of which were head injuries. Of these, around 700 bicyclists were killed. The use of helmets is not a substantial solution, with primary protection provided only to the temple and crown region.

In a bid to make cycling safer, Sweden-based Hovding has created a helmet prototype that works on the concept of an airbag. A cyclist needs to zip the airbag around the neck. In the event of an impact, the airbag bloats open and covers the cyclist’s head and face, offering cushioned protection from injuries. If Hovding’s invention has the potential to be the finalist for the European Patent Office Award, it truly deserves to be protected from misuse. Patent US8402568 discloses the method for protecting the head in case of abnormal movements.

Even though the Hovding helmet looks simple and is easy to wear, a lot of physics lies beneath the hood. The airbag is made of strong nylon fabric that is claimed to hold anti-rip properties, keeping it safe even on unruly terrain.

Hovding is fitted with advanced sensors that track a cyclist’s movement pattern. In the event of an accident, the airbag inflates around the head and neck region to provide the best shock absorption. Hovding spent significant efforts on designing the algorithm to identify genuine accidents and separate them from normal cycling situations such as bending down to pick up keys or adjusting the shoe, etc.

Further, the airbag works only when the zip is completely closed and is provided with an LED sensor to activate it. However, the most interesting part of the Hovding helmet is the presence of a black box inside the collar that can record data up to 10 seconds. Hovding uses this data to identify new patterns in accidents to modify the algorithm.

Where Hovding needs to improve

However, the helmet has its drawbacks which may need Hovding to work harder to address. For instance, if an object falls on a cyclist’s head, the airbag may not get the necessary signal to inflate and protect. Further, the airbag needs to be replaced after every instance of inflation, which may make it a costly option. Priced at €220, and with no market presence in the US, Hovding has quite a few challenges in store.

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Bhargav Ram
Bhargav Ram

Bhargav is a mechanogeek who goes right down to the nucleus of every product - from rockets to tablets - to understand its mechanism and blog about it.

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