POC has worked with automotive safety systems brand Autoliv to develop a bike helmet equipped with airbag technology designed to improve head protection and reduce the consequences of an impact. The helmet is still at the prototype stage but POC and Autoliv are looking at the possibility of bringing it to market.
The two companies say that the airbag would act as the initial energy absorber in the event of a slam while the underlying helmet would be the following energy absorber.
Head injuries account for half of cyclist deaths and the latest Bicycle Safety report by Swedish insurance company Folksam says that helmet absorption efficiency could still be greatly improved, especially when collisions occur with a car at speeds above 20km/h (12.5 mph).
Autoliv says that the emergence of e-bikes means that commuters are now riding at higher speeds than previously and so better head protection is required.
We reported last year that Hövding’s airbag for cyclists beat all other cycling helmets in an independent safety test. Hövding’s device isn’t a helmet, though – it’s more of a collar that activates in the event of an incident. POC and Autoliv have been working on a more conventional-looking helmet that incorporates the airbag.
After conducting a pre-study, the Autoliv research team says, “A cycle helmet with an integrated airbag can significantly improve protection and reduce the consequences of impacts to cyclists. The combination of both absorbing technologies [the helmet itself plus the airbag] enables a reduction of the peak linear head acceleration and significantly reduced head injury risk in impact tests.
“The pre-study also showed that the protection improvements could be reached without critically compromising the design, weight, or comfort of a helmet designed with integrated airbag technology.”
The work undertaken by Autoliv showed that the addition of airbag technology on top of the helmet “can significantly contribute to enhanced safety performance, especially in linear impacts.”
As the name suggests, linear impacts are direct, where the force is applied to the helmet in one direction, as opposed to angled impacts which cause rotational motion. The importance of dealing with angled impacts has been emphasised greatly over the past few years with MIPS, for example, aiming to reduce rotational motion by redirecting energies and forces otherwise transmitted to the brain.
“It is estimated that [with the use of a helmet with airbag technology] the risk for a cyclist to sustain moderate (eg mild concussion) to fatal head injuries is reduced from 80% to 30% in a 20km/h (12.5mph) impact,” says Autoliv.
Autoliv and POC say that they developed their initial concepts using “advanced simulation tools” and conducted physical crash tests – which look pretty gruesome, but you'd probably expect that.
“The successful outcome of the pre-study will now lead to further testing and refinement with the objective of developing the concept further and potentially bringing a product to the market,” they say.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.