Autoliv, Inc., the global leader in automotive safety systems, and POC, the global leader in snow sports and cycling protection, have partnered to study and develop bicycle and e-bike helmets equipped with airbag technology to enhance head protection and mitigate the effects of an impact.

Head injuries alone account for fifty percent of cycling fatalities. Although it is well-established that helmets improve head safety, the latest Bicycle Safety report from the Swedish insurance company Folksam argues that helmet absorption efficiency could still be vastly improved, particularly when collisions with cars occur at speeds greater than 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph).

POC and Autoliv have assessed the feasibility of incorporating airbag technology into helmets. The airbag would serve as the first energy absorber and the helmet would serve as the subsequent energy absorber.

After performing a preliminary investigation, the Autoliv research team concluded that a cycle helmet with an integrated airbag can greatly enhance protection and mitigate the effects of collisions on riders. In impact tests, the combination of two absorbing technologies reduces the peak linear head acceleration and greatly reduces the risk of brain damage. The preliminary study also demonstrated that the protective enhancements could be achieved without significantly affecting the helmet’s design, weight, or comfort.

“Autoliv is committed to the vision of Saving More Lives and to providing world class life-saving solutions for mobility and society. The safety of vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and e-bike riders, is high on our agenda. Therefore, it was natural to collaborate on this initiative with POC, a leader in bicyclist safety, to explore how to improve helmet protection in current standard testing and more challenging scenarios, such as higher impact speeds.” Dr. Cecilia Sunnevng, Vice President of Research at Autoliv, states:

The preliminary investigation revealed that the addition of airbag technology to a helmet can greatly improve its safety performance, particularly in the event of linear collisions. It is estimated that the likelihood of severe (e.g., mild concussion) to fatal brain injuries for a bicycle is lowered from 80% to 30% in a 20 km/h (12 mph) accident.
“Our safety mission drives everything we do, and we always challenge conventional thinking in order to improve protection. Helmets are tested and certified in a laboratory setting and can never fully address all the real-world variables of bike crashes. Together with Autoliv, who are world-renowned and have some of the most advanced testing and research facilities in the field, we have embarked on a development journey with airbag technology, asking ourselves what could be done to excel in current test scenarios and push the envelope towards even more shock absorbing capacity,”  according to Oscar Huss, Chief Product Officer, POC.

Increased environmental awareness and the introduction of e-bike commuting are driving a rapid growth in the number of bicycle riders globally. This expansion must be supported by enhanced helmet safety, especially at the greater speeds made possible by e-biking. During the preliminary study, Autoliv and POC created first designs using sophisticated modeling tools and conducted physical crash tests. As a result of the good outcome of the pre-study, additional testing and refining will be conducted with the goal of expanding the concept further and potentially bringing a product to market.

Autoliv has established Mobility Safety Solutions (MSS) to expand its operations outside the light vehicle and occupant safety markets. MSS develops and manufactures mobility safety solutions such as pedestrian protection, battery cut-off switches, connected safety services, and safety solutions for riders of powered two-wheelers by combining our core competency and industry experience.