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The Hovding

A pair of industrial designers has made riding bicycles fashionably safe, reports Sven Grundberg in The Wall Street Journal (1/14/14). Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt “invented in 2005 a nylon scarf that hides a miniature air bag … Two sensors – a gyroscope that tracks angular shifts and an accelerometer that notes sudden changes to the cyclist’s speed – detect movements indicating that a crash is imminent. If an accident is detected, the device inflates with helium in a fraction of a second.” The result, according to one user, is like “landing on air.”

In other words, the Hovding, as it is known, “is similar to what is found in automobiles, which often house a network of safety gizmos that use electronics to respond to crisis situations.” The device does have its drawbacks – for one thing, it requires “lithium-ion polymer batteries, the same kind found in a cellphone. So users need to worry about charging the scarf.” The Hovding also retails for about US $550, and it is only good for one use. Keep in mind that it took seven years of research and $15 million in venture capital to bring the Hovding to market.

The Hovding also requires users to trust that it “will indeed inflate upon a crash.” Each scarf contains a black box for accident data, and so far “the company has gotten reports of some 70 customers who have suffered accidents where the air bag has inflated.” There have been no reports of malfunctions. A study by a Swedish insurance agency further finds that the Hovding is "far superior" to traditional helmets "at absorbing straight impacts" (side impacts were not tested). The Hovding is distributed throughout Europe and will be introduced in Japan soon.