December .12 .2013

An Airbag for the Brain

Swedish designers have created the world's first "invisible" bike helmet.

Industrial Design students Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin came up with the idea when Sweden introduced the country's first mandatory helmet law. They wanted to develop a safe bike helmet that people would be happy to wear, without the bulky discomfort of conventional helmets.

The pair spent seven years studying bike helmet reports, enlisting help from head trauma specialists, and staging bike accidents with crash test dummies and stunt people to study the movement patterns of different collisions.

"We had to simulate all known accidents," Alstin said. "Everything from an icy road crash to getting hit by a car."

Hovding, the Swedish-based company behind the invisible bike helmet, claims their product provides "the best shock absorption in the world."

Hovding-Invisible-bike-helmet-7The Hovding helmet is actually a collar complete with airbag that deploys around the cyclist's head in the event of an accident. The airbag inflates with helium in less than a tenth of second when the abnormal movements of an accident are detected. The collar also includes a black box recorder that captures 10 seconds of data just before and after an accident.

Testing by a Swedish insurance company found that the Hovding airbag performed three times better than conventional helmets in a drop/hit test for shock absorbance - an important achievement in the search for a more concussion-proof bike helmet. The Hovding also protects against multiple hits in one accident, and covers more of the head than a standard helmet.

Each Hovding airbag collar costs $580CAD. But don't reach for your wallet quite yet, as Hovding has not yet earned approval from North American safety standards.

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