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How airbag jeans and high-tech vests could make motorcycles safer



But innovations in airbags can help protect motorcyclists.

Moses Shahrivar designed his first pair of motorcycle jeans in collaboration with Harley-Davidson Sweden 16 years ago – with a protective leather lining. Now he is taking the idea a step further. His company Airbag Inside Sweden AB has designed a prototype pair of super strong jeans that have hidden airbags inside the legs.

The wearer ties the jeans on their bike, and if they fall off the motorcycle, airbags that are filled with compressed air are released and reduce the load on the lower body. The airbag can then be emptied, refilled with gas and reassembled into the jeans for use again, Shahrivar explains.

Airbag Inside Sweden AB is in the process of getting the jeans certified to European health and safety standards and putting them through a series of collision tests.

The company has raised € 1

50,000 ($ 180,000) from the EU to develop the idea and hopes to bring the jeans to market in 2022. The French company CX Air Dynamics has launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a similar idea.

Airbag vests

Shahrivar says this is the first time that this kind of protection will be available to the lower body.

Equivalent technology for the upper body has existed for more than 20 years. Motorcycle airbag vests can be fitted under a jacket and protect the chest, neck and sometimes the back.

Early versions were tied to the bike, like Shahrivar’s jeans, but recently autonomous electronic airbags have been developed that instead use high-tech sensors to detect when the rider is about to fall.

Among the autonomous airbags on the market is a system set up by the French company In & motion.

The company began designing portable airbags for professional skiers in 2011 and has since adapted the technology for motorcyclists. Instead of using a tape to trigger airbags, it has created a “brain” consisting of a GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer. Slightly larger than a smartphone, this box is located on the back of any compatible vest.

“The sensors measure motion in real time, and the algorithm is able to detect a fall or an accident to inflate the airbag just before a crash,” In-motion communications manager Anne-Laure Hoegeli tells CNN Business.

The box measures the rider’s position 1,000 times per second. As soon as an “irreparable imbalance” is detected, the airbag is triggered and inflated completely to protect the user’s chest, abdomen, neck and spine, Hoegeli explains. This only takes 60 milliseconds.

In & motion makes high-tech airbag vests.

In & motion recently raised 10 million euros ($ 12 million) in funding for expansion in Europe and the United States.

While the basic function is similar to other electronic airbags on the market, In & motion has an affordable subscription service, explains Emma Franklin, Deputy Director of Motorcycle News. “Their system has in many ways made airbags more affordable for ordinary people,” Franklin tells CNN Business.

Riders can either buy the box directly for $ 400 or rent it from In & motion for about $ 120 a year. Users in France also have access to an option that calls emergency services in the event of a crash.

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While airbag protection is now mandatory in MotoGP and at this year’s Dakar Rally, airbags are not a legal requirement for motorcyclists on the road – but Franklin believes they are an important safety innovation.
Richard Frampton, an associate professor of vehicle safety at Loughborough University in the UK, says there has not been much academic research into the effectiveness of motorcycle air vests as they are still fairly new to road riders. But he pointed to research from the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networking, which found that airbag vests provided good protection at strike speeds lower than about 30 to 40 kilometers per hour (18 to 25 miles per hour).

“From the few papers, case studies, and articles I’ve seen, they seem to be a very useful device,” Frampton says.

“I am for them – chest, neck and spine are all areas where you can get life-threatening injuries.”


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