Hövding: the cyclist airbag

An invisible cyclist airbag worn as a collar around the neck: Hövding is the Swedish answer to the traditional cycling helmet.

The idea of a new bicycle helmet was born in Sweden in 2005, when a new law made the use of helmets mandatory for children up to 15 years old. This gave rise to the question if adults need protective headgear as well. Two students of Industrial Design, Anna Haupt & Terese Alstin asked themselves if it was possible to develop a bicycle helmet that people would actually be happy to wear – with or without a new law. Their master’s thesis, an airbag helmet, gained a lot of attention for its innovative design winning the 2006 Venture Cup competition for young designers. It took 7 years to transform a concept into a working product; the Hövding.

Since then the business has grown to a NASDAQ listed company. And now, Hövding has received €1.37 million from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program. A recently launched pilot by the European Innovation Council for top-class innovators to scale-up their businesses.

Achievements:

- Over 62.000 Hövding airbags have been sold, half of these during 2016-17
- About 1300 cyclists protected in accidents
- Product availability in 16 markets across Europe and in Japan
- Several global patents
- Grown to a NASDAQ listed company with around 30 employees

The Hövding works by way of sensors which take measurements 200 times a second. In the event of an accident, the cyclist’s abnormal movement is detected, and the airbag inflates. This patented airbag inflates in 0,1 seconds to form a hood that fixates the neck. There is no danger of it going off when not in use. To ‘arm’ the airbag, an extra button near the zip is closed.

Just like the airbag of a car, the product is single-use, but can be replaced for around € 100, -. The airbag helmet is expected to last 5-6 years. The latest version has a battery life-span of 9 hours before it needs to be recharged. It comes in three sizes, (small, medium, large) and is available in standard black, with custom colour options for those who are more fashion conscious.

With an increasing amount of risk due to the rise in use of e-bikes, headgear might become more important. So how well does the Hövding perform when compared to a regular cycling helmet? In the event of a crash the Hövding is likely to activate, whether it needs to or not. In this regard a normal helmet has a clear advantage. Furthermore, after it has been activated it doesn’t work anymore, whereas a normal helmet will still protect for the rest of the ride.
On the contrary, the Hövding does provide protection to one’s neck, whereas a regular helm only protects the skull. Due to the constant pressure the shock is absorbed better. Therefore, it offers better protection to a concussion. According to a research of Stanford University this airbag is 8 times more effective than your average cycling helmet. So, when it purely comes down to safety, the airbag is the safer option.

Hövdings founders are driven by the impossible. “Most of what we have accomplished are things that other people claimed were impossible. But by constantly doing the impossible we’ve acquired a unique expertise in airbag helmet technology.” It is because of this mindset that we should expect many more improvements coming to their invention. Winning the EU’s Horizon 2020 program will definitely help in their endeavor to further develop the Hövding. Perhaps in the future it is undoubtedly the best product for safety in the cycling industry.