When we first saw the promotional photos of the Hovding airbag helmet system, we instantly dismissed it as some kind of viral joke or a mad scientist dream. Their promotional photo showed a fashion model wearing a big scarf in one photo, then an inflatable helmet on the next.
But here at Eurobike, we got a chance to talk to some of their employees and we learned of a very serious effort to improve the safety of cyclists. The target market is areas where helmets are not required or worn in many instances. The users wear what amounts to a 1.5 lb. scarf that will protect their head in a crash.
Why not wear a helmet?
This may be painfully obvious to most Americans, where helmets are required for kids and almost mandatory for adults. But the answer is actually more profound and advanced than it appears. The reason is when you don’t force people to ride with helmets, more people will ride their bikes. And we’re not talking about going for a long road ride here. We’re talking about using a bike on short trips and every occasion you use a car. Many folks prefer not to wear a helmet on short trips cause it will mess up your appearance. This may seem silly but in countries like the Netherlands, millions more people ride bikes because helmets are not required and the infrastructure is in place to make biking safe.
A Serious Effort
Hovding was started by two women who got $13 million in venture funding and the backing of many top scientists and mathematicians to develop this system. The company is based in Sweden as well, which gives it credibility as their culture regards safety as one of their highest priorities.
The airbag system is gas charged and it deploys the airbag in .1 second based on motion sensors. The promise is it not only replaces the helmet, but it is safer than a helmet as it:
- Dissipates shock better with an airbag
- Protects the lower back of the head
- Does not twist the neck as the head is not locked to the helmet
- Supports the neck with a collar when inflated
It’s a serious product from Sweden and their claim is it offers more protection than a standard helmet, while not having the dreaded helmet head for bike commuters. Price for the system is 450 euros and it weighs about 750 grams. See more photos in the gallery below.
It is used now in the many countries in Scandinavia and is about to enter Europe and Japan. Sadly, the US will not get it soon, as it is one of the most difficult markets to enter with helmet laws and liability lawsuits.