Hövding is an invisible bike helmet that inflates like an airbag in the event of a crash. (We previously wrote about it as a “Best of 2010” technological innovation.) Created as an industrial design thesis project by Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, Hövding is a collar for bicyclists, worn around the neck. Within the collar is a folded airbag with a trigger mechanism controlled by sensors. The sensors work to detect abnormal body movements in the bicyclist, which then send a signal to the gas inflator to inflate the airbag.
The sensors only respond to abnormal movement patterns, which the company describes as the movement patterns of a bicyclist in a collision. “In an accident,” the company explains, “a bicyclist’s movements are completely different from those seen in normal bicycling. That’s why the airbag is only triggered by accidents.”
In order to distinguish between the movement patterns of bicyclists, the creators of Hövding spent the past few years gathering data on everyday bicycling situations. They also re-enacted all known types of bicycling crashes and recorded the corresponding body movements. The company explains:
Hundreds of bicycling accidents were recreated, with the aim of studying the specific movement patterns of bicyclists in accidents to determine precisely when the sensors should deploy the airbag. The accidents were re-enacted with stunt riders from the Swedish Stunt Group and with crash test dummies at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, VTI. With the backing of Ulf Björnstig, professor and surgeon at Umeå University Hospital and a specialist in skull injuries in bicyclists, we built up a database of all the bicycling accidents that take place. Every type of accident has been staged to ensure that this database is comprehensive and accurately represents what actually happens.
Although the sensors are sensitive enough to detect abnormal body movements, they do not interfere with daily activities. According to the company, Hövding does not require restricting body movements. Those with the device can still wear it when walking, picking up objects from the ground and even cycling with their dogs.
“As well as studying accidents, hundreds of hours of normal bicycling have also been incorporated in our database thanks to test bicyclists wearing Hövding in everyday bicycling situations,” the company explains. “Besides the actual bicycling, the concept of ‘normal bicycling’ also includes all the situations and movements that normally take place before and after a bicycle ride, such as running up and down steps, picking up dropped keys, etc.”
Once the sensors trigger the airbag, the pressure from the airbag splits open the upper seam of the collar, allowing a hood-shaped helmet to inflate around your head. Although the collar is waterproof, a shell is necessary to protect it from wear-and-tear, sweat and dirt. The surrounding fabric shell is attached using zippers. The shell is removable and washable, and it is the component that makes Hövding fashionable. According to the company, “The shell’s appearance can be varied in a virtually endless number of designs, colors, patterns and fabrics, turning Hövding into a fashion accessory.”
Hövding collaborated with Swedish airbag manufacturer, Alva Sweden, to ensure the airbag provides the protection required. Tests included performance of the airbag at different air pressures and temperatures, for different head shapes and sizes, and for cyclists with a range of different hairstyles and headgear. Hövding also collaborated with IAC Group in Tidaholm and by SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås to test whether the airbag inflates around the wearer’s head and how to optimize the shock absorption of the device.
The product is still pending patents and a CE certification. A CE mark verifies that the helmet complies with the requirement laid down in the European Union’s Personal Protective Equipment Directive. Only mass-produced products can be CE certified. Hövding is anticipating a CE certification once mass production is underway.
The product is only available for pre-order in European countries and costs 2998SEK (US$463).