Swedish company develops air bag alternative to bicycle helmets

By Ben Hooper
The Hovding air bag deploys as a cyclist's head falls toward the concrete. Hovding Sverige/YouTube video screenshot
The Hovding air bag deploys as a cyclist's head falls toward the concrete. Hovding Sverige/YouTube video screenshot

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MALMO, Sweden, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A Swedish company is marketing an alternative to bicycle helmets -- air bag-like neck rolls that inflate to cover a cyclist's cranium during a crash.

The masterminds behind Malmo-based Hovding said the concept was dreamed up by two college students seeking an alternative to traditional bike helmets and the air bag collar resulted from seven years of development and testing.


The Hovding collar zips onto a cyclist's neck and, once the activator is snapped, it checks 200 times per second to ensure the rider is not falling. The internal accelerometer and a gyrometer sense when helium gas needs to be released into the collar, which inflates to cover the cyclist's head.

"It's a bit of a crazy idea. It's almost unthinkable in a way," Hovding chief executive Fredrik Carling told KATU-TV.

He said the company used stunt riders to re-create thousands of crash scenarios to fine-tune the Hovding's sensors.

Videos posted to the company's YouTube page show how the Hovding's sensors can tell the difference between a rider going over bumps and falling.

"It will save you from bruises; it will save you maybe from being paralyzed and save you from a cracked skull for sure, and in the worst case, save your life," Carling said.


Carling said the $300 Hovding has been shown to perform better than traditional helmets in a number of tests, but its remains unavailable in the United States due to bureaucratic holdups.

"In the U.S. there are regulatory standards which, for no obvious reason, are slightly different from European standards," Carling told The Local.

Carling said getting certified as compliant with U.S. standards would involve testing with equipment that does not exist in the country.

"My plea to the U.S is to accept that Europeans hold just as high standards, and let the product through on the back of EU certification," Carling said. "I don't see why that shouldn't happen. It would be a breakthrough, for the U.S. and Europe to actually accept that they both have high standards."

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