The Final Solution To The Helmet Debate?
In the past few years there has been a lot of debate about the pros and cons of wearing a cycle helmet; some say they’re useless, while others say that any protection is better than none at all. The matter is still up for debate and you can regularly read the testimony of one neurosurgeon or another in the papers, either praising or condemning the humble helmet.
It’s not just those in the know that have something negative to say about helmets and let’s be honest for a moment, helmets aren’t particularly cool are they? They don’t look as cool as a motorcycle helmet, they’re sweaty, they ruin your hairdo, they often come in ridiculous colours and they’re also another thing to carry around with you or run the risk of losing. These reasons are the minor ones but they also buff up the support for the big anti-helmet campaign: those who say that they really don’t help you at all.
Here’s where a Swedish company named Hövding step in to provide the world with a new and fresh approach to head protection: the collar. ‘A collar?’ Yes, a collar but it’s a collar like no other; in fact, it’s more like a Bond gadget than a piece of cycling safety equipment – it’s a collar that could save your life.
The story behind this new approach to head protection began back in 2005 in one of Europe’s oldest universities, when two industrial design students called Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin from Lund University, Sweden focused their studies on redesigning one of cycling’s most controversial piece of safety gear: the helmet. From the very beginning and after a small amount of research one thing was clear: no one likes wearing helmets because they don’t look cool. The second phase of research saw the pair analyzing and testing conventional cycling helmets, weighing up their protection levels and determining why these traditional helmets were still leading to fatalities on the road; the results found that a standard cycle helmet couldn’t withstand the G-forces that act upon the head during a crash situation. With the conventional design proving to fail in both function and form, the pair decided to go back to the drawing board and take a new approach altogether.
Capitalizing on the latest auto-inflatable technology used in high end motorcycle gear, the pair decided to take things to the next level by designing a specialist collar that triggers when it senses an accident, inflating a protective shell over the cyclists head and neck. Haupt and Alstin teamed up with Sweden’s Alva Sweden airbag manufacturer to create a wearable airbag, complete with a wide range of sensors and technology designed specifically to keep you safe and…looking cool.
So this new collar design utilizes a whole host of sensors that are cleverly tuned to detect any irregularities to your bikes momentum, tested against a backlog or research and test scenarios to deploy the airbag when it senses any impending danger. The USB charged sensors can hold their power for up to a good 18 hours and when they feel like you’re in trouble, they activate a helium filled cartridge in a split second, cushioning your head and neck from any impact. Amazingly, this little collar based gadget has already proven itself to be able to withstand up to three times the shock absorption and dampening effects of any conventional cycle helmet. Take a look at it in action here:
There is a downside to the device though; it’s unable to protect the wearer from any other type of head related injury, such as falling debris, bumping your head on a low door frame or getting a thump from an angry car driver. That’s not the only drawback either, the Hövding collar comes with a hefty price tag, set at 299 Euro and an exclusive availability in the UK and Europe. Fortunately, as the technology gets refined, the company will expand and costs will gradually become more acceptable. On the plus side though, if you have an accident and your collar deploys, some insurance companies will cover part of the cost for a replacement. Better than that, Hövding kindly ask that you let them know all about it; the device comes equipped with a mini ‘black box’ style recorder that records the last ten seconds of your ride. Send this to them and they’ll be able to use the information and analyse the algorithms to make sure that the second generation collars are even better than the first.
The technology may still be in its infancy but it’s the best solution to bridge the gap between safety and freedom; as more people are switching on to eco-friendly modes of transport, the need for greater protection for cyclists has never been more important. It’s interesting to see designers venture outside of the box and come up with more and more unique and practical safety apparel for cyclists. It’s the future!
All Images Courtesy of www.hovding.com