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Prototype helmet with integrated airbag revealed

A helmet with integrated airbag – it sounds like something dreamt up by cartoonist Paul Sample for the long-running Ogri saga in Bike magazine during the 1970s. But 50 years on, it could be a reality – Italian helmet manufacturer Airoh has announced a prototype airbag helmet, which was unveiled at the Milan Show in November.

Airbag systems are well established and relatively affordable in vests, jackets and leathers, but they have never been applied to a helmet until now. Airoh has teamed up with Swedish safety firm Autoliv, which specialises in airbag systems, having previously developed airbag vests as well as other inflatable systems designed to fit the front of motorcycles. Italian engineer Roberta Descrovi did the original research on an airbag helmet at Sheffield Hallam University.

The prototype has an airbag integrated into its crown, surrounding the central air vents. As with any other airbag system, the bag is deployed electronically using a gas generator. Sections of the helmet’s outer shell are designed to open to allow the bag to inflate in milliseconds. One of the challenges was to ensure that the helmet would still reach the latest ECE22.06 safety standards both before and after the airbag is deployed.

President and CEO of Autoliv, Mikael Bratt, said: “To substantially reduce the number of rider injuries and fatalities, we need to take a holistic approach. Our insights into crash data, biomechanics and tools for injury assessment, in combination with expertise from Airoh, is an opportunity to enhance head protection and save more lives.”

Research began with multiple virtual crash simulations before a prototype was built to allow physical impact testing. According to Autoliv the probability of serious injury due to a skull fracture is reduced from 60% to 30%, though no speed of impact data was available. There’s no word yet on when Airoh’s airbag helmet might hit the shops, but it’s certainly on the way.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “Not sure about this one. My understanding is that skull fractures, with modern helmets, weren’t the big issue. Brain spin is much more common, with other Swedish helmet research into ‘limited slip’ helmet liners showing an effective response. The problem with motorcycle head injuries is the brain’s movement inside the skull, does the Airoh system address this?”

To find out more from Autoliv please click here

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Airoh