As more humans use e-scooters, e-bikes and, soon, e-motorcycles for transportation around cities, the risk of accidents between pedestrians and vehicles increases dramatically. These urban mobility solutions, although hugely beneficial to urban ecosystems, offer little-to-no protection from cars, SUVs and trucks on the road. Moving forward, this has to change.
Bicycle fatalities have been increasing year-on-year and we are seeing the first signs of e-scooter injuries as startups such as Lime and Bird deploy in cities around the world. What makes matters worse is that helmets aren’t exactly in fashion at the moment, with e-scooter mobility advocates rallying in areas like California for the end of helmet laws for motorized two-wheel scooters.
But maybe there is another answer. If airbags in cars can protect passengers from injuries, can the same method be applied to bikes and scooters? French company Helite offers a new spin on airbags – vests and jackets with airbags designed to deploy and protect cyclists.
Auto Futures talked with Knut Wagner, US representative for Helite to learn more about airbag apparel for two-wheeled open-air vehicles.
A Life Jacket for Mobility?
Helite, which first started producing airbags for motorcyclists, has introduced airbags with a refillable CO2 cartridge that are embedded in either a vest or leather jacket. The vests or jackets have lanyards that tether to motorcycles. In the event of an accident, the lanyard disconnection initiates inflation of the air chambers and protect vital areas of the rider.
“Motorcycle injuries typically include internal injuries such a ruptured spleen or aorta separation, which can be prevented because the airbags act as compression to hold the internal organs in place,” says Wagner, a former semi-professional motorcycle racer, who notes that it is not enough to just protect the internal organs. Helmets add weight to the head, therefore Helite products include neck braces to support necks to help prevent injuries.
Wagner is a true believer in Helite products for motorcycles. He has already experienced just how safe this innovation is, after being cradled by a Helite airbag after a severe crash on a race track.
In addition, the Helite motorcycle vests and jacket are being promoted by a New York insurance company that offers discounts to its customers to buy them.
In January, Helite launched the “B’Safe” airbag system for bicycles and other two-wheeled e-mobility devices.
“B’Safe is lighter because bicyclists will not want to wear a heavy product,” says Wagner. “We see the market as people who use a bike, e-bike or e-scooter to commute to work.”
Each B’Safe vest has a GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer electronic device inside that detects accidents and inflates the airbag automatically within 100 milliseconds. The air in the vest protects the front, back and neck of the body.
B’Safe vests include an impact sensor on the bicycle that communicates to a sensor in the vest. It will also activate the vest if someone is hit while standing on the bike. The airbags are inflated by a CO2 cartridge that can be replaced, so that the vest can be reused.
Bicycles may not only collide with cars or trucks. Wagner says that in pedestrian and bike-only parts of European cities such as Munich, Stockholm or Paris, there is a high chance of cyclists running into each other or hitting obstacles. As you can imagine, distraction plays a large part in this. Wagner says he has even seen people texting while riding bikes.
Helite will also be providing products to help elderly people who are prone to falling with Hip’Safe-a belt that protect hips. Ont he another end of the spectrum, the company provides competitive skiers who can go as fast as 100 mph with special airbag apparel that has been worn in the Olympics.
B’Safe vests will launch in Europe early this year and have been well received.
“There is a very high in interest in B’Safe,” says Wagner, “We have received very positive feedback and many inquiries.” Helite is now accepting pre-orders for B’Safe vests that come in neon yellow or basic black, both with reflective trim.