Researchers at Stanford have been developing a new breed of bicycle helmets that use air bags to significantly reduce injuries sustained in the event of an accident. David Camarillo is a bioengineer at Stanford working on the helmet design and according to testing performed at the University, the new airbag helmets can reduce the force of an impact as much as six times compared to a traditional bike helmet.
“Foam bike helmets can and have been proven to reduce the likelihood of skull fracture and other, more severe brain injury,” said Camarillo, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford. “But, I think many falsely believe that a bike helmet is there to protect against a concussion. That’s not true.”
Camarillo works in a lab that focuses on understanding and preventing concussion. The helmet that is in testing currently has a soft pocket that is worn around the neck. When a collision happens, the air bag pops up and around the person’s head. “We conducted drop tests, which are typical federal tests to assess bicycle helmets, and we found that air bag helmets, with the right initial pressure, can reduce head accelerations five to six times compared to a traditional bicycle helmet,” said Mehmet Kurt, a postdoctoral scholar in the Camarillo Lab.
Testing saw the new helmet placed on a dummy head that has accelerometers inside and then dropping it, neck-side up from different heights onto a metal platform. Strikes to the crown of the head and side of the head were simulated. The catch in the research right now is that the helmet being tested has been pre-inflated with internal pressure optimized before each drop to get the results. Right now without the correct amount of air inside the helmet, it could allow the head to hit the ground with more force than a traditional bike helmet. More research is being conducted to perfect the helmet; no indication is given on when we might see the product available commercially.