We don’t usually post information about winter sports products here, but this new alpine skier airbag safety vest from POC and In&motion caught our eye. In fact, it seemed especially relevant after last week’s spate of bad crashes at Red Bull Rampage.
The airbag system consists of integrated sensors and uses an algorithm to distinguish between a crash or fall from the normal forces associated with alpine ski racing. In order to detect a loss of balance the system keeps track of the skier’s movement by performing 1000 analysis per second. When a fall is detected, the airbag is inflated in less than 100 milliseconds to provide protection for the neck, chest, spine, abdomen and hips.
Now depending on how well all that built-in technology works, and the overall weight of the vest, it seems like this could work for mountain bikers, too. Especially for the gravity and freeride crowd, where a few hundred extra grams isn’t likely to be too big a deal — as long as the bag never deploys accidentally. Can you imagine…
The Spine VPD 2.0 Airbag Vest system is integrated within a lightweight vest wearable under a ski racing suit, which POC says makes it convenient and comfortable to wear. Wind tunnel testing has also shown that the vest has no effect on a skier’s aerodynamics, which if true is sure to please cyclists as well. The vest has already been approved by the International Ski Federation.
POC claims the airbag provides wide-spanning protection that’s up to 4x the absorption capacity of a standard back protector. Once deployed the system is reusable simply by replacing the CO2 inflator.
“After spending months analyzing the accidents and trauma on ski racers, a wearable intelligent airbag system appeared to be the best technical solution for serious injuries,” said In&motion co-founder Pierre-Francois Tissot. “The equipment is ideal for sports like alpine and ski cross as it is based on intelligent technology able to anticipate falls and able to protect selected zones of the body before impact.”
Availability is set for fall 2016. No word yet on pricing — or if the two companies will attempt to apply the technology to other sports. For the sake of Red Bull Rampage athletes and mountain bikers in general, let’s hope they do.