Here’s a hi-viz vest from France that’s in the news today, but it has nothing to do with the widely reported gilets jaunes protests that have brought civil unrest to cities across the Channel over the past couple of months – it doubles as an airbag to help protect cyclists in the event of a road traffic collision.
Named the B’Safe, it’s made by Helite, a company based in Fontaine-lès-Dijon in eastern France and the prototype is being showcased this week at the CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, where it has won an innovation award in the wearable technology category.
A Kickstarter campaign for the product will follow in April, with the B’Safe being shipped to consumers from Spring/Summer 2019.
Designed to protect the thorax, neck and back in the event of a collision, the airbag is deployed through two crash detector unit (CDU) sensors triggering a CO2 canister to inflate it.
One sensor, in the garment itself, analyses the cyclist’s motion and detects when he or she is falling, while the other, fitted below the saddle, detects shocks.
The following video shows the B’Safe being deployed.
According to the manufacturers, “2 kind of detection are possible:
Without a shock: (The cyclist slips along the road): The “CDU” detects the fall and will activate the airbag if it is needed.
With a shock: (The cyclist impact a sidewalk): the “saddle sensor” detects the shock, send an alert to the CDU sensor which will determine if there is an accident and if it should trigger the airbag or not.
Helite was founded in 2002 by light aircraft industry pioneer Gérard Thevenot, and initially focused on the aviation sector. Subsequently, it has branched out into other areas where it believes protection is needed such as motorcycling and horse riding and now, cycling.
The company says that more than 60,000 of its airbags are in use today, making it Europe’s leading manufacturer of wearable airbag systems.
Available in black as well as yellow – both with reflective piping – the product will inevitably draw comparisons with the Hövding airbag cycle helmet, although that is single-use whereas the CO2 canister the B’Safe relies upon for deployment can be replaced after use.
Like Hövding, however, the price point is likely to run to several hundred pounds – Helite’s motorcycle range, for example, sells online in the UK from upwards of £400, depending on the item.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.