Airbag bike helmet boasts better protection of cyclists' noggins
While bike helmets do provide a great deal of protection, it's certainly still possible to sustain a head injury when wearing one. This fact prompted two Swedish companies to develop a prototype airbag-equipped helmet, which could make a big difference in the event of an accident.
The helmet was designed and tested via a partnership between automotive safety systems manufacturer Autoliv and protective apparel company POC. Although not many technical details have been provided, we do know that the device incorporates sensors which detect the movements associated with sudden falls, an electronic control unit that auto-inflates the airbag, and the actual airbag itself.
The latter consists of three fabric-bodied channels which stay hidden beneath the helmet's detachable outer panels when not in use, but that instantaneously inflate and expand when an accident occurs. They reach a pressure of 60 Kilopascals (8.7 psi), covering the sides and top of the head.
According to Autoliv, the idea is that the airbag will act as the initial energy absorber, with the helmet's underlying foam liner serving as a secondary absorber. This functionality is claimed to not compromise the design, weight or comfort of the helmet – so in other words, it's much like a normal helmet during regular riding.
In a pre-study (a small study preceding a planned larger one), the helmet was placed on a crash test dummy's head, which was then dropped from up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft) onto either flat or angled surfaces – this setup simulated different types of impact with the road or other surfaces. The tests reportedly showed that in a 20 km/h (12 mph) impact, the wearer's risk of moderate to fatal head injuries was reduced from 80 percent (if using a regular helmet) to 30 percent.
A POC representative tells us that the next phase of research is about to begin, hopefully resulting in a commercial product sometime in the future. In the meantime, prospective buyers might want to check out the existing Hövding airbag collar – which expands to become a helmet when a fall is detected – along with the airbag-equipped EVOC cycling backpack and Cirrus cycling jacket.