Airbag systems are nothing new in biking. Once a safety net reserved for the MotoGP elite, they’re now found in everything from standalone vests to adventure jackets, to bespoke leathers. However, Italian company Airoh wants to take this a step further by integrating the explosive safety technology into a motorcycle helmet – revealing a striking prototype model at this year’s Milan show in early November. “Since the birth of our company 25 years ago we have always focused on safety,” said CEO and founder Antonio Locatelli. “This obsession has led to the development of the helmet with an integrated airbag.”
The design has been produced in collaboration with Swedish safety firm Autoliv, which has been developing safety products for 70 years – previously working on airbag vests, plus inflatable solutions to be integrated into the front of motorcycles. Their research is said to have saved 35,000 lives in 2021, with 44% of all cars featuring Autoliv products. President and CEO of Autoliv, Mikael Bratt, added: “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.”
The collaboration is inspired by the work of young Italian engineer Roberta Descrovi, who studied the idea of airbag integration in helmets during her studies at Sheffield Hallam University.
The prototype design is the result of multiple virtual crash simulations to produce both structural and biomechanical evaluations of the lid in an impact – known as CAE tests.
This began in 2020 and was followed up with physical impact testing to help improve elements of the design, airbag coverage, pressure, and volume. Inflating from the crown of the helmet surrounding the central air vents, the bag is electronically deployed during an accident – said to provide greater energy absorption away from the rider’s head than a conventional helmet. It is deployed via an integrated gas generator using similar tech to what you’d find in your car’s dashboard, with smaller sections of the outer shell designed to open and move, to allow inflation.
Airoh say that they want to be able to do this without sacrificing the external features a rider would come to expect from a modern helmet, with the added challenge of reaching the latest ECE22.06 safety standards both before and after an airbag deployment. According to data provided by Autoliv, the probability of serious injury due to a skull fracture is reduced by up to half – going from 60% to 30%, however no speed of impact information has provided in relation to the figure.