Swedish company unveils airbag cycle helmet (+ video)

Device aims to overcome barriers to helmet use among image-conscious adults

by Simon_MacMichael   October 21, 2010  

Hövding Airbag Helmet.jpg

A Swedish company has developed an airbag bicycle helmet designed to deploy quickly to protect a bike rider’s head in the case of an accident, while seeking to overcome resistance to helmet use by providing what is billed as a stylish accessory aimed at the fashion-conscious.

Called the Hövding – the name means 'chieftain' in Swedish – the airbag is housed in a collar worn around the cyclist’s neck that comes in a variety of colours and can separated from the airbag and washed.

The video below shows the helmet deploying in a variety of situations, but with the top speed of the collisions shown being just 20kph – that’s in the first one, in which the cyclist is hit from behind by a car – you do wonder whether it can react quickly enough at higher speeds.

According to the eponymous company that has developed the device, 40 cyclists are killed in Sweden each year with a further 30,000 injured, and one in three of those fatalities involves head injuries.

While helmets are compulsory for children aged under 15, there’s a heated debate taking place at the moment about whether that legislation should be extended to all cyclists.

Although it doesn’t cite statistics regarding helmet use, the company says that among commuters and everyday cyclists, barriers include the fact that most helmets on the market have too sporty a look.

It adds that that “many choose not to wear a helmet because it is considered uncool and doesn’t fit with their personal style.”

The airbag helmet has its origins in a joint thesis by industrial design students Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin at Lund University in 2005, the same year helmet compulsion was introduced for the under-15s.

The concept reeived an Innovationsbrons (‘innovation bridge’) prize, which enabled the pair to start working on turning the idea into an actual product, and in 2006 they won the Venture Cup together with a grant of SEK200,000 which enabled them to set up the company.

The following year, work began on developing a system that could “identify cyclists’ specific movement patterns in an accident and determine when the sensors will trigger the air bag,” with hundreds of accidents staged with the help of professional stunt performers and crash test dummies.

They also worked with Ulf Björnstig professor and surgeon at Umeå University Hospital and a specialist in cyclists’ head injuries to understand the the specific nature of cycling accidents.

They also undertook testing on the road to identify everyday situations where the airbag should not deploy such as picking up keys or running downstairs, as well as normal bike riding.

12 user comments

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I think I'll be sticking with a helmet - not exactly low profile that collar is it?!!

Exercising my rights by taking them cycling

posted by pedalingparamedic [86 posts]
21st October 2010 - 10:17

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Be alright with a nice bit of fur trim added though...

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
21st October 2010 - 11:38

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Anyone seen / used the Sidi system for motorbikes?

I've seen one of these inflatable back protectors in action for a Horse riders... very effective:

http://www.point-two.co.uk/equine/index.php

Watch the video!

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
21st October 2010 - 13:34

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I know car airbags are triggered by small explosives. If this uses the same type of system, I'm not sure that I want to be wearing it around my neck. The film "Scanners" comes to mind.

Whilst it deployed on the front fall, it didn't seem to do much for the dummy.

posted by OneLooseNut [12 posts]
21st October 2010 - 14:06

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However, the woman modelling the headgear at the top has given me a whole new range of uses. Cool

posted by OneLooseNut [12 posts]
21st October 2010 - 14:07

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OLN, That picture looks like she's having her head grabbed by the the Mr Stay-Puffed Marshmallow man... Sad

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
21st October 2010 - 14:44

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Put a Rapha badge on it, double the price and they'll go like hot cakes

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [409 posts]
21st October 2010 - 15:04

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It is hard to imagine a "personal style" that cannot tolerate a helmet but would accomodate that thing. But I am an old man who knows little of style.

posted by BigDummy [271 posts]
21st October 2010 - 15:21

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Looks like it'd tuck in nicely to the collar on that dhb Windslam softshell Thinking

Darned if I do…

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posted by Mr Sock [152 posts]
21st October 2010 - 16:39

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And this is intended as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to existing helmets to encourage people to wear head protection?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2041 posts]
21st October 2010 - 20:45

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I think it's a brilliant idea! I find helmets sight impairing and in the summer too hot, in the winter too cold...

Todeloo

posted by todeloo [23 posts]
26th October 2010 - 11:21

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Mark this day well. Give it 10-15 years and people on cycling news forums will be posting self-righteous comments about the irresponsibility of any fellow cyclist photographed riding without a bulky collar. And the DfT will be making Flash games berating children who even consider going outside, or walking down stairs, without first connecting a compressed air cannister to their safety jacket.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
29th October 2010 - 21:11

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