POC Partners with Autoliv to Develop Airbag Technology for Helmets

Jul 8, 2022 at 13:53
by Alicia Leggett  

POC announced today that it has partnered with automotive safety supplier Autoliv to develop airbag systems that can be incorporated into bike helmets.

The budding technology is currently aimed at commuters and e-bikers, but it's likely that once refined, the system could be applied to POC's mountain bike helmets, too. According to Autoliv, which primarily makes car airbags and seatbelts, more than half of seriously injured road users are cyclists, and serious injuries in crashes involving cyclists rose 24% from 2010 to 2019. With cycling still on the rise worldwide thanks to environmental and health initiatives, the two Swedish companies thought it timely to study how helmet safety could be improved.

A prototype model has been tested using crash dummies to mimic different ground impacts a cyclist's head might experience. A full study is upcoming, but in the "pre-study tests," researchers evaluated airbag designs, pressure, integration methods, and triggering systems:

bigquotesThe resulting concept was an airbag consisting of three fabric channels hidden in the helmet during normal use. In a crash the channels were expanded covering the sides and top of the head and pressurised to approximately 60 kPa. When deployed the airbag acts as the initial energy absorber while the underlying helmet may still contribute in the usual way. The combination of both absorbing technologies enables a reduction of the head acceleration and significantly reduced head injury risk in impact tests. Targets such as having a low mass, good coverage, and not being visible during normal use were fulfilled with this airbag design.Autoliv

The researchers noted that the design was constrained by the helmet itself having to still perform as well as conventional helmets when the airbag is not deployed.

After the successful initial tests, POC and Autoliv plan to continue the research, now with a focus on creating an airbag with as much coverage as possible and with coverage in the most essential spots. Although there's still extensive testing to be done, POC aims to bring an airbag helmet to market before too long.

More information is available online, where users can download Autoliv's full report of the pre-study testing. (Users are asked to enter personal information to gain access. I took the hit so you don't have to.)

With increasing awareness of head injuries throughout the bike industry, we look forward to seeing more technological developments to help mitigate those risks in the future.


  • 53 0
 Very cool. I’m sure people will say it’s expensive but you only get one head…buy the nicer helmet and skip the factory suspension…
  • 4 45
flag DoubleCrownAddict (Jul 11, 2022 at 10:21) (Below Threshold)
 You'll have a worthless expensive helmet when you glance a tree branch, yet you'll still be stuck with average suspension.
  • 27 0
 In the 70's Bell's ad slogan (for moto) was "If you have $50 head, buy a $50 helmet"....or something to that effect
  • 3 0
 @MikeyMT: waiting to see the beetletjuice heads on the early failed tests
  • 3 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: so dont skip it and buy both.
  • 14 0
 This will be cool technology if it comes in at a price most can afford.
  • 9 0
 POC + relatively cutting edge and already known to be expensive (see motorcycle airbags) technology? One can dream, but I wouldn't bet a case of IPAs on it...
  • 11 1
 @Mac1987: Here in the US you can get a motorcycle airbag vest for like $800. I'd call that cheap and affordable compared to hospital bills.
  • 16 0
 @matadorCE: the best argument against universal health care: it encourages you to invest more into safety gear
  • 2 1
 @matadorCE: I'd call that "worth it safety-wise". The extremely expensive hospital bills are mostly a US thing.
  • 14 0
 @waldo-jpg: I'd personally rather take free healthcare over an airbag, but things are what they are
  • 8 0
 @matadorCE: Why choose? I'll take the free healthcare and the airbag. Win-Win, no?
  • 3 0
 @theobviousfaker: Fully agree, but like I said things are what they are
  • 8 4
 Smart, sure. But I can only imagine it will be popular if it's reusable or offers affordable "refills". If I had to shell out $200 every time I crashed and hit my head(regardless of impact forces) I'd be spending another $1000 a year!
  • 30 4
 Are you saying that you don't replace your helmet after you crash?
  • 16 4
 @wpplayer18: I don't know anyone who would do that unless there is a visible damage.
  • 8 5
 @wpplayer18: I mean, no. That seems ridiculous. If it's obviously broken or cracked of course I'll replace it. I'm not out here riding around with delaminating rims or a cracked frame, similar to how I'm not riding with a cracked and mangled helmet.

If you saw my helmet, you'd notice there are some minor dents, crunched plastic, and plenty of scuffs... But I wouldn't say it fits inappropriately or feels dangerous on my head. It's a $180 helmet, I'll replace it when I feel it's unsafe.
  • 17 2
 @cgreaseman: I'm no expert, and maybe there's one that can chime in, but I've heard that you should always replace your helmet after you hit it in a crash, visible damage or not. My understanding is that once you've hit it, the core components have been squished and can't squish again in another crash.
  • 2 8
flag skiboot1 (Jul 11, 2022 at 10:13) (Below Threshold)
 @wpplayer18: some helmets can take more hits. There's different limits for different helmets. I'll take 3-4 good hits before replacing, unless they are cracked.
  • 10 0
 @wpplayer18: Correct, most helmets are designed to only take one hit before requiring replacement. (unless they specifically say they are rated for multiple impacts, they likely are not)

People can choose to ignore this if they want to save money on helmets. Or buy a helmet rated for multiple impacts.

I hit my head, going 10.5 mph, and before insurance had $40,000 in medical bills. ($3500 after insurance). I also lost the ability to form short term memories for 6 hrs. Head injuries are no joke.

You only get one brain, I will buy a new top rated helmet every time I hit my head.

(link to independent helmet crash test ratings site)

  • 2 0
 Those head protectors that inflate out of a scarf thing are like 500euro and not reusable. Doubtless these helmets will be the same. Granted most of us should probably replace our helmets more often but I think this will be unreasonable especially at POC prices.
  • 3 13
flag corposello (Jul 11, 2022 at 10:34) (Below Threshold)
 @wpplayer18: I choose to believe that's an old wives tale... Or for those cheap foam-only helmets? Either way, I can't afford or care to replace a helmet every time I crash.
  • 5 0
 @skiboot1: Those helmets are usually marketed as multiple impact. Skate helmets come to mind. Unfortunately, most Mt Bike helmets are one hit wonders.

The Styrofoam is compressed with any impact and will not expand again. So next hit you either have reduced or no impact protection. You are taking your life and head in your own hands.

This seems to come up often. Can @PB do some kind of Bro Science test on this? Or maybe a discussion? Which helmets can take multiple hits and which cant?
  • 13 0
 @cgreaseman: its not an old wives tale. Its engineering.
  • 1 0
 @cgreaseman: Do you mean your cheap foam only $500.00 TLD, FOX, Bell, Giro, etc... what do you think they use? Magic? They are all foam filled.

I dont think the Koroyd helmets by Smith are multiple impact either. The plastic crushes and does not expand again.
  • 1 0
 Don't worry.
It will come with a monthly cash subscription of 20$ for the air bag to actually work.
Just like that motorcycle air bag west.

I'm kidding by the way, but it's still possible.
  • 1 0
 @fabwizard: Some POC full face helmets are multi impact, I haven't heard of anyone else offering it in the mtb world.

  • 1 0
 @commental: yup different foam.

And they are labeled specifically multi impact.
  • 1 0
 @fabwizard: correct, I crashed the shit out of a Smith Forefront six foot drop to side of head and came out aight-ish but the helmet shell/underlying foam was cracked underneath although it "looked okay" to a casual observer would be a fail point on a second impact
  • 2 0
 For years, I've actually been using cheap helmets from On One (their "enduro" model). They usually sell them between 15 and 20GBP and I usually bought a bunch of them at once. Every time I hit my head properly in a crash, I replaced it. Not sure how much safer fancier helmets are (other than special slip layers and sensors etc) but chances are they are less safe after a crash than a cheap helmet is before the crash. Might be something to consider. I'm currently riding with a Kali Maya helmet even though I still have some new On One helmets at home. The Kali helmet is more expensive but I was sold on their micro-concussion protection thing. They have a program where you replace your helmet for a new one when you crash (and they investigate and learn from your old one). That cold also work for you as there is no reason to hold on to a helmet you crashed on. So yeah, two options. See what works best for you.

All this said, most of my concussions I was not wearing a helmet (nor in an activity where wearing a helmet is recommended). Can be interpreted different ways, but one of them is that apparently the helmets must have saved me from a good few cycling related concussions Smile .
  • 3 0
 It looks like those motorcycle airbag vests are $500-$1000+ USD. Automotive airbags cost $1000+ USD to replace. I'd be surprised if we saw these airbag helmets for under $1000 when they arrive.
  • 3 0
 i suggest you research what a hövding is and how much it costs
  • 6 0
 They're definitely going to hit the roadie market first. Deeper pockets, less frequent (but way more brutal) incidents. Hard to justify this kind of thing when we eat shit all the time, but usually under 20mph. Roadies get wiped by 40mph cars going 30mph themselves all the time, its a different league when it comes to fatality rates.
  • 5 0
 @Sethimus: Just looked, it's $400 and isn't even attached to a helmet yet. Throw in a decent lid and were up to $600. Make it a POC and we're talking $800. Doesn't seem like he was far off.

The tech in the hövding is impressive, but I'm a little concerned about the way they market it as a replacement for wearing helmets.
  • 1 7
flag Sethimus (Jul 11, 2022 at 10:21) (Below Threshold)
 @ryanandrewrogers: just admit you were wrong Smile
  • 2 0
 @Sethimus: I was wrong a plastic bag filled with air is all we need why do we even wear helmets lol
  • 2 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: deeper pockets in the road world? At the professional level, I suppose that’s true.

At the enthusiast level, no way.
  • 3 0
 Both my wife and I got Hövdings for city riding a few years back. Both of ours “deployed” (read: exploded) unexpectedly on our heads while riding.

My wife’s exploded when she rode off of a small curb. When they deploy it is, no exaggeration, as loud as a gunshot and directly next to your ear. It feels like you’ve been hit with a concussion grenade. The explosion, ironically, caused my wife to crash.

The same thing happened to me when I rode onto a gravelly section of road from pavement. My bike drifted a tiny bit, and bang! Explosion on my head and I fell over.

I said screw this after my experience and went back to my city helmet. My wife sent hers in and got a free replacement… which then also exploded unexpectedly a few months later. We are now both back in our city helmets.

So consider me extremely skeptical that they could get that type of technology right for mountain biking, where the ride quality is just a little bit rougher and more unpredictable than riding on flat pavement in a city.

Maybe if what they are developing is more like the airbag mech for motorcycles, where you have a wired attachment to the bike that triggers the airbag in case of separation, but if it’s anything like Hövding, which claims they’ve “trained” their sensors to recognize a crash based on data and machine learning… No ****ing way that thing is going on my head.

Side note, the only upside to the Hövding deploying is that you briefly get to look like a 17th-century French lord :

  • 6 0
 They're gonna look like they were made for Dark Hemet
  • 4 0
 I see your Schwartz is as big as mine
  • 2 0
 Ludicrous speed! GO!!!
  • 2 0
 I imagine they're starting with the commuter and e-bike market because ventilation and weight are less of an issue there?

It's interesting to imagine this tech. married up with one of the sub 700g full face enduro lids. If a full on downhill lid is 1100g, that gives 400g to play with and I'd imagine the combo of DH certified enduro full face + airbag would offer a lot more concussion protection than a traditional full face, if they can get the airflow to work too.

It's harder to picture this working in a highly ventilated lightweight road helmet or even an MTB half shell.
  • 1 0
 Commuter seems like a very practical application. Not going OTB that often on the way to work, and when/if I do it probably would not go well.
  • 2 0
 I'd be real skeptical about how sensitive the trigger is. Not exactly like using it on a motorcycle on the road... those wrecks are so infrequent and the risk so high that I'd def want it to go off. But the vast majority of the times I've gotten launched from my mtb, I have not hit my head very hard.
  • 2 0
 Lets not be luddites, any investment in tech for the industry is good and definitely for safety. Having just found my son unconscious and not breathing on a trail and dealing with the aftermath of a head injury, Im interested in any tech that can prevent the worst effects of these injuries. Having also had to shell out a bunch of money for new helmets this year I do wonder if the idea mentioned above of a subscription model might be a good idea, especially where such tech needs to be repacked. Anyway I think we should applaud this stuff and see where it goes.
  • 4 0
 Don't they know that concussions are a Chinese hoax so they can take away our football?
  • 3 0
 Wonder what the deployment trigger will be. Decelerations seems too late, freefall may have false positives.
  • 2 0
 Likely free fall plus an accelerometer that can tell what your orientation is. Upside down and accelerating at 9.8m/s^2.. not ideal for 99% of us.
  • 3 0
 I dare you to do a backflip wearing one of these.
  • 4 0
 @rbarbier12: Brandon Semenuk just logged off
  • 1 0
 It’s only a matter of time. I have a motorcycle jacket with an airbag and thankfully have never had to use it. I know someone who had greatly reduced injuries after being in an accident whilst wearing one.
  • 1 0
 Concept so simple you'd really have to questions why it's taken this long to be put into use. Airbag has to be a lot safer for the dome than essentially fancy styrofoam.
  • 2 0
 Anyone ever heard of Takata?? Hard pass on carrying an explosive charge on top of my skull
  • 1 0
 I hope all helmets incorporate some multi-use version of this at an affordable price point.
  • 1 2
 This seems awesome! I can't wait to buy one once the tech has been proven out and it's ready for MTB rides! also I would gladly by an inflatable vest like motorcyclists wear if someone would make one for mountain biking
  • 1 0
 Just don't be tossing your lid around, don't drop it at a trail head, secure it while traveling.
  • 1 0
 Great development, might be expensive to start with but hopefully price comes down over time.
  • 1 0
 Nice. And i would lik the same air-bag technology for the shoulder (who didn't broke is clavicula yet ?)
  • 1 0
 New meaning to the term "airhead". Someone that really goes off on you when you accidentally bump them.
  • 2 0
 Do the airbags get recycled into shorts?
  • 2 0
 I'm with BikeSnobNYC
  • 1 0
 can I have a helmet with temperature regulation instead please.. its hot..
  • 1 0
 So, we're all gonna look like Toad from Mario Bros!

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