Are Airbag Helmets Safer Than Helmets?

One of the areas of transportation that has not seen a lot of innovation over the last 100 plus years is the bicycle helmet, but that could be changing with companies like Hovding, who have created a stylish-yet-functional inflatable helmet. One of the biggest concerns with these new types of head protection is the trust factor: will it actually inflate when in a collision? Hovding in particular boasts upwards of 200 sensors that inflate the helmet in 1/10th of a second, and argues that, due to the combined neck and head protection, renders a fatal injury almost “non-existent.” Some of these studies are rationalized by opponents of airbag helmets, stating that the studies claiming such statistics are directly paid for by the manufacturers themselves. Regardless of the backing, experts across the spectrum have a hard time validating the full effect of bicycle helmets in general, arguing that while head injuries are protected, the neck and spine is not; areas that inflatable helmets specifically target with their technology.

One of the most interesting developments in the field of helmet innovation is the installation of a “black box” in most inflatable helmets. This allows the user to transmit crash information directly to the manufacturer, which in turn helps them to redesign certain aspects based on the information provided. In this way, many helmet manufacturers have likened the technology to installing airbags in cars, which not only inflates on impact but also relays data about the crash to law enforcement and the research and development team at the original manufacturer. Gizmodo in particular connects this technology to the trust factor involved with airbag helmets: we have no problems trusting airbags to deploy in our cars, but for some reason are more hesitant when it comes to burgeoning airbag helmet technology.

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