Many cyclists probably wouldn’t consider taking even a short ride without donning a helmet. According to international studies bicycle helmets reduce injuries by at least 60 percent, while four in 10 people who die in cycling related accidents would likely have survived if they had been wearing a helmet. So what if they had a protective device to wear that eschews the main drawbacks of wearing a helmet.
Swedish design firm Hövding has created a new form of head protection that makes use of motion sensors and microcontrollers from Swiss-based STMicroelectronics. The sensors work much like those in an automobile and react to sudden movement that indicates a crash, and inflates like a car’s airbag.
Helmetless riders cite numerous reasons, including: those who find them bulky, impractical to carry around, or simply not flattering to wear. Now researchers in Switzerland and Sweden are looking at creating an invisible helmet that could provide safety without the bulk.
Unlike a traditional helmet, this “invisible helmet” isn’t actually worn on the head, but instead is a collar worn around the neck with an airbag folded inside. In an accident or crash it can inflate in a tenth of a second to form a hood that surrounds and thus protects nearly all of the cyclist’s head and neck.
This helmet isn’t aimed at those who wear a helmet already, but instead is for those daily commuters or casual riders who tended to shy away from a helmet for reasons such as style. “As far as we know, all our customers so far are people who didn't use traditional helmets before,” Anna Haupt, founder of Hövding, told BikeRadar. “They bought Hövding because they know it's dangerous in traffic, and this was a protection they wanted to use.”
While the collar may lack the bulk of a traditional helmet, Haupt doesn’t think it is any less flattering and, certainly, it’s cooler on a hot day. “The Hövding helmet has a loose fit, which means the air can pass on the inside of the collar as well as the outside,” added Haupt. “Personally I don't think it is warm in the summer, but in warmer countries than Sweden we are considering making shells with a built in cooling function.”
She's wearing a Hövding collar
For those looking to ditch the helmet for a collar don’t need to head to Scandinavia, where the invisible helmet is already in stores, rather, it’s available online. It will come at a cost however, selling for SEK 3995 or about € 425 (US$526). “We have been in production for 6 months already, and are selling Hövding in stores in Sweden, Norway and soon also in Denmark,” said Haupt. “Next year Hövding will be available in many countries in Europe.”