Airbag Helmets: The Science & Technology

An in-depth guide the science and technology behind airbag helmets Airbag Helmets: The Science & Technology thegearhunt.com

Would you wear a cycling helmet that is inflatable? The makers of this wearable airbag claim that it is 3x safer than the traditional cycling helmet. Some of the key points of it include:

  • The helmet is actually a collar that is worn around the neck.
  • If you happen to be in an accident, the collar will inflate to protect your head.
  • When the helmet is switched on, sensors begin constantly monitoring any movement.
  • It can detect changes in angle or velocity that can indicate an accident.
  • The suggested retail price is $392.50 (or £299), and you can only use it until it inflates a single time.

For cyclists who want to make sure their hair remains looking good, this inflatable collar might have its benefits. However, the company that makes it claims that it is more than simply a fashion accessory, it is also much safer than a bike helmet. Hovding (the manufacturer), claims that there have been many studies done that prove that people should be ready to pay good money for the product and throwing their old bike helmets in the trash.

Hovding (a Swedish company) says that most bicycle helmets barely comply with the regulations set forth in Europe. However, their helmet has performed much better during tests, and it is 3x safer when compared to the traditional type of helmets.

They continue to say that if their helmet is used, the risk of obtaining a head injury that can be fatal can be as little as 0%. They state that their invention is so much better, that if all safety tests were performed using their helmet as the standard, any other type of bike helmet would become obsolete.

Inflatable Safety

If you are on a bike and involved in a serious accident, Hovding estimates that the chances of you sustaining a serious head injury stand at 90%. The risk of that injury being one that is fatal is as much as 30%.

Using this type of airbag helmet for cyclists in that same accident can reduce the risk of serious injury dramatically. They say that the risk of being seriously injured in the head is reduced to 2%, and the risks of that injury being one that is fatal is not even a factor.

This means that even when the helmet scrapes across the asphalt, it won’t tear up.

This helmet also covers more of your head that your regular bike helmet does. Because of this, it offers even more protection. The pressure that builds up to inflate the helmets remains constant for more than a few seconds, keeping your head protected from multiple impacts. The helmet is inflated by helium gas that is stored in a special holder in the rear of the collar.

A big obstacle to this type of helmet being the standard against which all other helmets are measured is the price. At $392.50, it isn’t exactly a biking accessory that is cheap, and once it has inflated, it becomes useless. However, this might be a small price to pay when it comes to your safety on the road.

The helmet is stored inside a stylish sort of scarf/collar that is available in many patterns and colors. When the airbag inflates, it resembles a puffy hood.

This really does seem to be an invention that is both remarkable and works when it comes to protecting you from head injuries while you are cycling.

Airbag System

Concussions and head injuries are one of the top reasons for brain damage. Many injuries of this type can occur during biking accidents. The airbag system made by Hovding allows for extra protection because it inflates in order to make a fixed hood that covers the head and neck. Stanford University ran some safety tests on it back in 2016 that showed that this helmet provides as much as 8 times the protection when compared to the more traditional style of bike helmets.

It has been designed like a sort of hood that will protect your entire head with a nylon fabric that is super strong and won’t rip even when it is scraped against the ground.

Algorithms and Sensors

The manufacturer says that once they had performed thousands of tests on this product and collected the specific patterns of movement of bikers in accidents, they developed an algorithm that allows the helmet to distinguish between the possibility of a biking accident and normal cycling. On their website, it says that when the helmet is activated, it records the movements of the cyclist at a rate of 200 times each second. If there is an accident, the abnormal movement of the cyclist will be detected, and the airbag will inflate.

Activation

This helmet is activated when you use the button on the zipper pull. Once you see a light and hear a sound, you will know that it has been activated. You have to totally close the zipper in order for it to activate successfully, and it should only be activated while you are biking. There are LEDs located on the front part of the collar that will let you know both when it has been activated and when the battery is running low. The device can be deactivated at any point during your cycling.

Charging

When you see a light flicker and hear a sound, the collar will be letting you know that the battery is low. You can charge it as easily as you do your phone with the USB charger that comes with it.

When your battery is fully charged, it can last for as long as 9 hours when you are actively cycling. You will be able to see the levels of the battery by looking at the LEDs that are located at the front of the device.

Covers and Collars

The Hovding collar is made from a functional fabric that is waterproof. This makes the protection it offers even stronger. That being said, you can’t wash it, but it remains protected from dirt, sweat, wear, and tear by the fabric shell that surrounds it. However, if you do manage to get marks and/or stains on the collar, they are easily wiped off by using a damp cloth.

The collar also has a design that is ergonomic and allows for even weight distribution across your shoulders. This design is a bit lighter in the front than it is in the back, but this allows for the wearer to rest the weight on their back, which also means that their posture will be straighter.

The design also includes an enclosing cover that is stylish. This allows for the user to easily alter the style and appearance of the helmet by choosing a variety of covers that will match your own personal style.

Should a Bicycle Helmet Come with an Airbag?

Did you know that cycling alone sends over 500,000 people in America to the ER every year? In 2009 alone, more than 85,000 of those were for head injuries. Getting hit hard on your head can be especially dangerous because it can lead to things like concussions, skull fractures, and other trauma to the brain. Is there a possibility that science could find a way to keep cyclists protected from life threatening injuries such as these?

This is a question that puzzled researchers from Stanford. Minimizing the amount of brain injuries might just be a matter of bulking up some of the protection and padding in existing helmets. In fact, having people ride around in helmets akin to motorcycle helmets might be a great way to minimize this sort of trauma. However, cyclists seem to greatly prefer the polystyrene foam, plastic covered helmets meant for cyclists because of their appearance, ventilation, and light weight. That isn’t necessarily what their brain needs though.

However, there is a new type of helmet that is plump with padding, inconspicuous, and light. It wraps around the neck like a sash, and in the event of a crash, it will explode into a fat pillow of air. The researchers at Stanford performed specific types of drop tests using anthropomorphic crash dummies and 2 different types of helmets. One was the standard helmet that we see all the time, and the other was the Hovding. The results were astonishing. Hovding slashed the risk of concussion a whopping 8 times when compared to the typical bike helmet.

Launched back in 2012, this new airbag helmet was able to turn the concept of bike helmets on its head with the use of a collar mounted airbag that cyclists can wear. It actually does inflate in the event of an accident, just as the airbags in a car do. The company that makes this helmet claims that it provides as much as 3x the shock absorbency when compared to traditional helmets. Additionally, it is more comfortable, which can be a big advantage to those who aren’t massive fans of traditional helmets.

More than 50,000 of these have been sold worldwide, and the company says that they are aware of more than 800 cases where it protected a biker who was in an accident and that it potentially saved their life.

Getting it to work is actually rather easy. Once you unpack it from the box, you need to charge the battery. You can use your normal charger for your cell phone or the one they include. Once the battery is charged, just put it right around your neck, and close the zipper part with a button that also acts as the switch to activate and deactivate it.

When it comes to the device’s level of comfort, that can vary depending on its jacket. If you have a heavy jacket on it for the winter, the triangular shaped compressor on the back of it won’t be that comfortable. If you don’t have a heavy jacket on it, it can be really comfortable.

Safety

All else aside, what is truly important is its safety record. This device can be difficult to test though, because once it inflates a single time, it is done. If you are ever wearing one and are involved in a crash, you will have to buy a new one. It is worth noting that the company sells replacements for less than ½ the cost of your first one. However, you do have to “trade in” the one you used in your crash.

You can find YouTube videos of the helmet in use. It does seem to work, and this is aside from the Stanford studies.

As mentioned above, once you activate the device, your movements are recorded at a rate of 200 times every second. When an accident occurs, the abnormal movement will be detected, and it only takes a tenth of a second for the airbag to fully inflate. Also, this airbag will protect your neck as well as your head, which is much better than the range of a traditional bike helmet. This allows for it to minimize any sort of harmful impact.

Stanford tested both the traditional bike helmet and the Hovding one in simulations of the most common type of biking accident – which is a single fall. They replicated scenarios of accidents with head velocities that varied from 2 to 9 meters each second. This is the most common speed of head impacts from bike wrecks. At the peak acceleration speed, the airbag helmet was 8 times as effective as the traditional helmet.

Is it Recommended?

The product is easily liked, and it does seem to be made well. You can trust it. The price tag is a bit large, but then again, it can keep you protected from a traumatic brain injury, or even death, so it is worth it. Hopefully, the price will drop eventually, and this will allow more people to get one.

How to Get One

Getting one of these helmets is quite simple. You just go to the Hovding website and find the one you want to buy and buy it. They even accept PayPal. It is coming from Europe, so if you want one tomorrow you will be out of luck, but it shouldn’t take too long to have it in your hands.

If you are a serious cyclist, this is well worth your time and money. You never know, it might just save your life!

Sources

  1. YouTube, Invisible Bicycle Helmet – an Airbag for Your Head that Protects from Accidents
  2. Europa.EU, An Airbag Helmet for Cyclists
  3. Hovding, The New Bicycle Helmet
  4. Popular Science, Airbag for Your Head may Work Better than a Bike Helmet
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