Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How cool is this?

This here is the Hövding. Just when I think I've found the most extreme, most ridiculous-yet-somehow admirable example of bike-innovation design (I still kinda lust after the handlebar-mounted flamethrower and deployable front ski of the BOND Bike) I get something like this brought to my attention (thanks, Shelly!) and the bar is raised once again. 

This thing is, essentially, an airbag for your head. When you're involved in a collision, gyroscopes and accelerometers in the collar determine that it is in fact a collision, and trigger the helium that inflates the collar. All before you hit the ground. 

(Listen for the stifled snicker when the bike flips end-for-end in the last test. It's cute.)

Yeah, you may say, but that's a bit iffy, isn't it? You can do lots of things while you're wearing this collar that might look to the sensors like you were in an accident. Like suddenly looking over your shoulder - POW! Airbag! Or leaning over to check your panniers - POW! Airbag! Bending over to tie your shoe - POW! Plus, what if you just weave into the curb and topple over (I've done it: I'm not proud of it, but I've done it, back when I was first on the road and got between a bus and the curb)? That's a pretty gentle accident, but you could still whack your head - would the sensors know in time to deploy?

Apparently, though, they've tested for all that, the two Swedish industrial design students - Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin - who designed this as a masters thesis. They've run it through tons of variations, using both dummies and (very brave) stunt people. Plus, this thing learns. It connects by USB to a "black box" that saves the last ten seconds of data before your crash and stores it for later prediction. (It also uses the USB port to recharge.) No, really. Come on, how nifty is that?

And what I admire about it is how much effort and talent and thought went into making something only because it looks cooler than the existing technology. I don't know if I'd go to that much trouble, just to not need to wear a traditional helmet. Not even sure I'd trust a helium-filled bubble more than my good old-fashioned foam-and-casing helmet. But someone did, and that's pretty cool. That's a whole lot of engineering in order to be bleeding-edge stylish and still ride a bike. Trust the Swedes. 


  1. Oh man. I'd heard this discussed on a cycling podcast, but I hadn't seen it, and I did in fact wonder if it would deploy when you simply swerved or looked over your shoulder. Apparently they've taken that into consideration already. Damn those Swedes are good.


  2. I'm not convinced that the "black box" is all that useful. I mean, what are the odds that a person who has an accident will then afterward have another accident under the identical conditions? It's an interesting project but I'd rather stick to my regular helmet for now!

  3. if it offered the same protection as your regular helment, + this added bonus protection, then why not?

  4. Seeing that dummy falling back onto the car hood, my first thought was "gee, they should really extend that airbag to protect the spine as well as the head"

    also @biblioblond: the black box can be useful when the motorist who hit you starts lying to the cops about having done so, in order to avoid an increase in their insurance rates.