Innovation: External Airbag Protects Cyclists in Collisions

When it comes to protecting cyclists and pedestrians from head injuries in the event of a traffic collision, there’s infinite room for creative thinking. The bottom line is making the street safer for all users.

These days, a lot of innovative approaches come from the bicycle-friendly Netherlands. Recently, reports, the Dutch have taken an “inside-out” look at reducing traffic fatalities and injuries.

The automobile company TNO has developed an external airbag that attaches to the outside of the vehicle. Positioned at the lower part of the windshield, the device is meant to cushion the skull of a victim of a collision. It’s controlled by forward-looking cameras beneath the rear view mirror and deploys when a sensor in the car bumper registers contact with a cyclist or pedestrian.

Noting findings that bicycle helmets provide protection in accidents at speeds up to 12.4 miles per hour, but that the average accident speed is approximately 25 miles per hour, researchers reasoned that technological improvements on the vehicle side were needed.

Exterior air bag to protect cyclists

Technical development was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Technology. Effectiveness studies included computer simulations of accidents followed by full-scale crash testing.  Researchers gained insights by studying car speed, impact angles, size of cyclists and car shape. Results are being called “very positive in reducing head injuries in real accidents.”

Readers: Where do you stand on measures to improve traffic safety, including technology like that mentioned above, as well as existing efforts such as installing more protected bike lanes and boosting the number of traffic cameras designed to reduce speeding on city streets? Do you envision a day when the exterior airbag might be incorporated into U.S. automobile design?

Top photo: earcos Flickr

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