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Motorcyclists To Get Wearable Airbags 515

Posted by michael
from the road-rash dept.
jonerik writes "For the past hundred years or so motorcycle accidents have had an unfortunate potential for particularly horrific injuries, or worse. Improvements in safety gear have certainly been made in the past few decades, but in some ways those improvements have been balanced out by the tremendous speeds that modern bikes are capable of. According to this article from ABC News, though, Dainese, a protective sports clothing maker in Vicenza, Italy has developed a wearable airbag vest - called the D-Air - designed to cushion riders in the event of an accident. The D-Air vest features a tiny electronic computer referred to as the STM (which stands for Sensing, Triggering, and Memory), which was developed by an Israeli company called Merhav APP. According to the article, the STM contains sensors that monitor the bike's physical motion. 'The sensors onboard the STM will watch for telltale signs -- such as a sudden deceleration force of about ten times that of gravity -- that precede a collision. Once the computer determines an impending accident, the STM blasts the data to receiver in the vest to start the inflation process.' This site also features some pictures of the D-Air vest in action. Dainese plans to begin selling the D-Air vest in Europe in the spring, though American sales will have to wait since the U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to set standards for such a device."
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Motorcyclists To Get Wearable Airbags

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  • Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DJPenguin (17736) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:31AM (#4861525)
    Sounds like this sort of thing, if not calibrated perfectly for the person wearing it, could blow your head off!
    • Re:Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by e8johan (605347) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:41AM (#4861582) Homepage Journal

      An airbag inflator has the power of a hand granade. I would not like to carry such as device too close to the body. Also, what happens if I would wear a packpack, or have someone on join me on the bike (sitting behind me).

      This device may look right, but how many lives will it save compared to those it take. Also, how do you dispose an explosive jacket, or take it with out on an aircraft. I'd say that this is probably a publicity stunt, and not really a life saver as airbags in cars are, but thats just MHO.

      • Re:Ouch! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by chamenos (541447)
        i agree. worse still, the danger the wearable airbag poses should it inflate when its not supposed to would be immense. will the company be held liable in such an event?
      • Re:Ouch! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Goth Biker Babe (311502) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:07AM (#4861733) Homepage Journal
        You do have to remember that airbags in cars in the US are a lot more powerful than those in Europe. In the US they are designed to try and save people who refuse to wear seat belts. Over here most people wear them (in the UK its the law, both front and back) and it's considered the drivers fault if they are injured because they aren't wearing their belt.

        I suspect that these bags are not as powerful as you might think. Having said that I wouldn't want to wear one.
        • Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Informative)

          by e8johan (605347)

          I live in Sweden where seat belts are compulsory too, just as in the UK. This rule is the biggest life saver of them all, no airbag in the world saves you in a roll-over situation (which is quite common).

          As for the force, I work at a company producing the inflators used in passenger side airbags and they are really powerful (the company name is Autoflator, a part of the Autoliv group). I have also smashed a car (aquaplaning... scary stuff) and I got hit pretty good by the airbag.

          At least we agree on not wearing them!

        • Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Informative)

          by coloth (630330)
          In the US they are designed to try and save people who refuse to wear seat belts. Over here most people wear them

          I'm always a little curious about broad statements, especially when comparing the habits of different societies.

          I live in California, which is the most populous state, and has by far the most cars of any state, as well as the most stringent emissions laws. It turns out that, at least as of 1999, it also had the highest rate of seat belt use, nearly 90%. (Buckle up America Report, 2001) [dot.gov]

          At a national level, that 90% is considered a target number for 2005. As of 2002, national usage is at 75% [buckleupamerica.org], which was a sad surprise to me. Of course, each state has its own laws.

          It isn't surprising to me that less than half of North Dakotans wear a seat belt, considering the rural environment and culture, but I would have thought the national average would be higher by now.

          Interestingly, all the states that border California are also very high.
          • Re:Ouch! (Score:4, Informative)

            by MightyTribble (126109) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @01:03PM (#4863080)
            In MA, the seatbelt usage rate is around 60%. One of the worst in the nation, apparently, but the recent 'click it or ticket' campaign, even though it has no legal standing, has driven usage up by six points. Which is good.

            On a related point, my wife was talking to the head of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) just yesterday about airbags. US airbags are a big pet peeve of his, because if you're a passenger using a seatbelt in a US airbag-equipped car, you're *MORE LIKELY* to be injured than your European seatbelted compatriot, because of the more powerful airbag. Congress deliberately set them more powerful to give (statistically-unproven) better protection to folks not wearing belts. While it *has* been statistically proven that belts plus low-velocity airbags reduces injury. I'm not making this up : this is what Dr. Runge said, and I assume he knows what he's talking about.

            In fact, I know a doc in one of our local hospitals who is pissed because his wife is permanently disabled, directly because of the US high-powered airbags.

            So, to conclude : US airbags are more powerful to provide an *unproven* amount of protection to non-seatbelted occupants, at the *direct* expense of seatbelted occupants. Gah.
        • Re:Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by snarkasaurus (627205) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @12:44PM (#4862931)
          I think you'd rather wear one than put up with a broken neck, old son.

          Think about the classic car/bike accident where the imbecile car driver turns in front of the bike, which then hits the side of the car at full speed. I know of several people who would be walking today if they'd been wearing an airbag like this that fixates the head and neck upon impact. I'm a physiotherapist, I meet a lot of the ones who don't die on impact.

          I'm walking today becase I was 17 when some prick did it to me, and I had reflexes like a cat. And I was LUCKY. He drove into me, and I managed to clear the hood of the car before impact.

          One millisecond too slow and my left leg would have been a bag of smashed bone chips, an infinitely preferable arrangement to the head and spinal cord injuries I've seen, belive me. Even if they have to cut off your whole fucking leg, you can still wipe your own ass.

          So don't be too quick to dismiss the good old airbag. Anything that adds armor to the neck and head is good. I'd wear it.

          This is just the begining too. Once they get this perfected they can start on the lower trunk and limbs. Progress!
      • iirc from a report on Dainese's work on this jacket from quite a while ago, the jacket has a safety interlock, a key (attached to the jacket) which you need to plug into a receptle on the bike in order for it to be active. They might have changed the mechanism since then, (or i might not have iirc), but you can bet there will be some kind of interlock precisely because of the reasons you give.

        Its definitely not a publicity stunt though. Dainese have been working on this jacket for quite a long while (many years). They're also one of the biggest names in protective motorcycle apparel.
      • Re:Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Blkdeath (530393) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:47AM (#4861972) Homepage
        I'd say that this is probably a publicity stunt, and not really a life saver as airbags in cars are, but thats just MHO.

        Airbags, much like ABS brakes and anything else used in cars are only partially effective, and only when used right. In many circumstances people have walked away from rather non-fatal collisions with broken jaws, ribs, and being partially or completely blinded.

        Having spoken with a biker (sitting in the next room from me. ;) ) he agrees that this vest is highly impractical. When you're launched from your bike, you keep your appendages close to your body and roll, similar to how paratroopers roll on landing to reduce the stress on your body. Also, they have to be able (barring physical injury) to get up and walk away, so as to prevent them from being flattened by passing cars (who tend to pay so much attention to the wreck they'd hit the broad side of a barn if it were planted in front of them). This vest looks like it has serious potential to create a situation faced by Ralphie's brother in "A Christmas Story". (Think 'big snow suit', and 'can't move')

        Much as I hate to abuse a cliche; the best life saver in all these cases is education. Motorcyclists have to observe proper safety precautions, and cars have to be told that no, you can NOT share a lane space with a motorcycle, and that while they're not as big, they're considered the same as a car when it comes to road usage. There are many statistics about how motorcyclists have been faulted as the cause of collisions, but I'd be willilng to bet that most of those have been indirectly (or directly) caused by the car, or other surrounding motorists (I'm not including those plastic, 20lb "sport" bikes, because the guys who drive those seem to have a death wish).

        If people don't use safety devices properly, they have this habit of backfiring and causing death or injury, rather than the desired prevention. Take my above example of ABS brakes; people have started to become complacent, believing that ABS will reduce their stopping distance, so they drive faster towards intersections and brake later. What they don't realize is that ABS actually increases your stopping distance. I can only imagine how the bikers have felt watching a car speed towards them at 80KM/h while they sat stopped at a light, often behind another car.

        Chevrolet (and perhaps all of General Motors, I'm not sure) has apparently decided to make ABS once again an optional, rather than standard feature in their new product lines. I only wish I'd had that option for my '95 Cavalier.

        Unfortunately, my usual opinion of 'Remove the safety labels/devices and let the stupid take care of themselves' doesn't apply here. The drivers of cars would cream motorcycles, and innocent (and perhaps highly intelligent) bikers would be dead, while drivers of cars would walk away.

        How about this - retroactive corporal punishment for any driver who causes an accident due to stupidity (which includes not paying attention, driving while tired, intoxicated, being distracted by cell phones, kids, oral sex from the passenger seat, etc.)? What we do is break their ankles on a cinder block, much like in Misery, and then revoke their drivers license for five years with mandatory driver training in order to get it back. That is, of course, if their ankles are fit to operate the pedals. ;)

        • Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Informative)

          by Scotch Game (442068)
          Having spoken with a biker (sitting in the next room from me. ;) ) he agrees that this vest is highly impractical. When you're launched from your bike, you keep your appendages close to your body and roll, similar to how paratroopers roll on landing to reduce the stress on your body. Also, they have to be able (barring physical injury) to get up and walk away, so as to prevent them from being flattened by passing cars (who tend to pay so much attention to the wreck they'd hit the broad side of a barn if it were planted in front of them).

          This is obviously written by someone who has never ridden a motorcycle for any length of time and who's getting advice from someone who thinks he's a better rider than he is (which is scary). As a former editor at Motorcycle Online (http://www.motorcycle.com [motorcycle.com]),
          I can tell you that when you're tossed off a bike at 70 miles per hour, the first thing that goes through your mind isn't, "Ah, now I'll tuck my legs and roll!" That's just ridiculous. You hit the ground so quickly (if you're lucky and don't highside which involves you being tossed through the air and is definitely the most dangerous way to wad) that about all you have time for is "OHSHIT!!", which is, interestingly, what anyone who claims otherwise is full of.

          As far as the vest is concerned, well, if it works, great. Many would refuse to wear it just like many refuse to wear helmets, citing rights and freedoms and fashion and whatever. But research into this kind of technology is nice to see because, at the very least, it keeps a dialog open and fresh about motorcycle safety.
  • by jorlando (145683) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:31AM (#4861526)
    what about the rebound when the motorciclist hits the ground? He starts to bump around like a ping-pong ball? :-)
  • New Movie? (Score:2, Funny)

    by randomErr (172078)
    a protective sports clothing maker in Vicenza, Italy has developed a wearable airbag vest - called the D-Air - designed to cushion riders in the event of an accident.

    Will they use these in the new Mad Max movie? [slashdot.org]
  • Go go... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Britissippi (565742) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:32AM (#4861531) Journal
    ...gadget lifesaver!
  • by petrilli (568256) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:32AM (#4861532) Homepage
    I wonder how this deals with low-side collisions, which are relatively common in bad weather. This is where the bike comes out from under you, and you follow the bike. Generally, not deadly, but tend to create a lot of scrapes and bruises. Anyway, it's a neat idea. The other thing I miss is my BMW helmet with a high-mount G-detecting "stop light", to add to the tiny one on the back of my bike.
    • by swfranklin (578324) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:44AM (#4861606) Journal
      I wonder how this deals with low-side collisions...

      Probably not at all. This might be of use to specific types of accidents, including collisions (thrown over the handlebars) and high-sides (bike falls toward the outside of a turn, throwing the rider clear). Low-sides, where the bike falls toward the inside of a turn, generally leaves the rider on the bike or perhaps following behind the bike. Good riding gear such as leather or ballistic nylon with closed-cell foam armor cushioning hips, elbows, etc. do a very good job of protecting riders from this type of accident already.

      All that aside, as the AMA rep points out in the article, collision avoidance needs to be the focus. No matter what happens, motorcycle accidents are going to involve a high risk of injury. I'd bet that you can put an 8-year-old child in the driver's seat of a Ford Excursion, buckle their seatbelt, and tell them to push down on the pedal on the right... and they'd have even-money odds of coming out uninjured. Skills don't enter as much into the picture in a "cage" (motorcyclist-speak for a 4-wheel vehicle).

      Rider education, and technology that enhances control (ABS, better suspension like the BMW Telelever/Paralever), and rider education are the types of things that will reduce rider injuries. Yes, I put rider education in there twice on purpose, it's the most important.

    • by ArcSecond (534786) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:09AM (#4861750)
      Considering the number of people who t-bone a cage and get catapulted, maybe the vest should have a glider kit too, so you can choose your landing spot with more precision. :)

      A guy I went to cycle class with actually go hit by a sport bike while he was driving a pickup, and came out of it worse than the guy on the bike. He came around a corner too quickly on a wet road, the back of the truck swung out into the oncoming traffic, and the bike *PRANG!* went right into the driver side door. The biker went flying, landed on the grass, and my buddy was lucky he WASN'T wearing his seat belt, since he ended up sharing the cab with the bike.

      On second thought, how about a jacket that turns inflates with helium and floats you to safety?...
    • as you point out, low-sides are generally innocious bar the scrapes and bruises - but that's why you wear good leathers. :) Low-side probably wouldnt even trigger the airbag.

      Its high-impact events where the vest would come into its own.

    • This device is not designed for high or low-side wrecks. That is a single vehicle accident that usually due to rider error. Too fast into a turn (low-side) or too hard on gas mid-corner causing rear wheel to spin causing rider to let off gas causing rear tire to 'catch' traction which leads to velocity perpindicular to direction of travel to be high enough to cause rotation of bike (quickly) which 'spits' the rider off.

      The air-bag type vest that more than a few different companies are working on is for accidents usually involving bike hitting car/truck or other immovable object.

      10g decceleration does not happen when rider low-sides, and rarely when you high-side (until body hits ground).

      The battle bikers face is visibility and respect from car/truck drivers. This device will help, in some circumstances.
  • Could be really great, but I think it needs to be evaluated more. This kind of thing could hurt more than it helps.

    Something like the BMW C1 [bmw-c1.de] may be a better choice for somewhat safer two-wheeled transportation; it does seem to reduce injuries in practice.

    • The problem with a C1 (I've ridden one in Europe) is that it's attrocious for handling. It blows around like a sailboat and honestly made me feel totally unable to ride in a straight line. Scary. It might help with some things, but I think you're actually more likely to get into an accident because of handling, though perhaps more likely to live when you do. Not really a great trade off. One of the things that Americans seem to ignore completely is the difference between active safety (which includes the handling model of the car, as well as the driver's skill), and passive safety (when it's already too late and you just don't want to die). I can't count the number of times on my motorcycle (and car) I've avoided a careening Cadillac or Ford Expedition not by depending on my airbag, but by the judicious use of brakes, handling and acceleration. There was a great article in Motorcycle Consumer News (not linkable unfortunately) that discussed defensive v. offensive riding. Specifically, motorcyclists must ride offensively, because we will always lose the defense against a 4000 pound SUV, so we have to look for openings and take them. Many times that implies the use of acceleration that cars see as "excessive," but which isn't really on a bike. My small 650cc V-twin will do 0-60 faster than any road car I've ever run into on the US roads, 3.5 seconds, and so even twisting the trottle "gently," will pull away in 5 seconds. The key to staying alive, on a bike, or in a car is awareness of your surroundings and being able to predict the stupid moves of the next idiot too busy talking on the cell phone to pay attention to you.
    • Well, the C1 might be a good idea on paper but it's quite horrific to ride. There's too much weight high up, making the thing more unstable and the shape makes it difficult to put a foot on the ground and it's too expensive. And you can't take a passenger.

      Now, the idea of a safety cell around the pilot is good, but you can only have it on a scooter that won't leave urban areas and won't generally go over 100Kph (62mph). The only good thing is you don't need to wear a helmet (there's an 'X' seatbelt tying you to the seat), and safety-wise the sheer size and height of the thing makes it more visible to cars than a regular scooter (a BIG plus in stressed urban areas).

      Actually, BMW has stopped their production a few weeks ago because they don't seem to sell well at all... There goes another interesting concept.

      I don't know how such a concept, declined into something bigger, would be welcome by motorcyclists (such as me), one of the things we like in the bikes is being free from roofs, belts and other containment devices...

      Now to that airbag thing, it's not the first time we see such devices coming up. I remember seeing a similar vest at least 10 years ago. The biggest problem with such airbags is the time it takes to inflate. If you're a car driver, in case of a frontal shock the airbag opens according to a sensor placed in front of the car, giving it enough time to deploy itself while the front of the car gets crushed (and you have a seatblet to keep you from jerking forward). When you ride a bike and have a frontal collision, you're exposed *immediately*, there's no gap between the mechanical shock and its transmission to you. The moment the bike hits, you already are in the air, flying real fast towards the ground or the car, with great chances of hitting something before the airbag's deployed.

      Dainese being a top manufacturer of racing and road equipment, I hope they managed to solve this timing problem. Nevertheless, the only way to protect yourself when biking is a good helmet, glove, boots and protective gear (leather is best, don't forget spine, shoulders, arms and legs protective pads). Of course, if other drivers would respect 2-wheelers and if the road planning people would take motorcycles into account, we'd have many less casualties to count within our ranks...

      Cheers,
      max
  • by gonar (78767) <sparkaliciousNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:32AM (#4861535) Homepage
    watch a little Speed channel. particularly during any motorcycle related show.

    there is a CO2 powered air vest that is triggered by pull pins, connected by a lanyard to the bike. in the case of any inadvertant separation from the bike, it inflates. (even if you don't experence 10G loads)

  • Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bobman1235 (191138) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:33AM (#4861541) Homepage
    I can't wait when in ten years these become commonplace and the government decides that they have to protect us from ourselves by requiring them. That will be a fine day.

    Why not just put a protective steel cage around your motorcycle, and another 2 wheels to increase stability? It would be so much safer!
  • Heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jgerman (106518) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:33AM (#4861542)
    Welcome to SnowCrash...


    This is good stuff, as a biker one of my biggest concerns is protection. Dropping the bike is no big deal, wearing the right gear you're more or less safe. But in the case of collisions with other vehichles I'm not sure this will help. But more protection is always good.

    • by GMontag (42283)
      Welcome to SnowCrash...

      That is the first thing I thought, YT's automatic inflatable collar for extreme skateboarding and fighting nuclear terrorists.
  • That D-Air is pronounced like "dare" is probably just a coincident, right ?

    Is it likely to come with a warning "The usage of D-Air does not substitute driving with due care ?"

    Oh my....

  • by ianscot (591483) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:34AM (#4861547)
    Is this patent from the same Tokyo commuter whose inflatable underwear went off on the train a few years ago?

    (Who knew NASA technology would pay off in this particular indirect way? Now our motorcyclists are bouncing around like Mars Pathfinder... After the accident maybe they can enjoy some refreshing TANG.)

    • motorcyclists are bouncing around like Mars Pathfinder

      That is exactly the mental image I had! Complete with loony sound effects. Something like:
      CRASH, inflation-Thwump! (inflated cyclist goes sailing through the air) boing, boing, boing.....
  • I wouldn't like to be behind the driver when that thing went off :-)

    Simon
  • Worse? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Skiboo (306467) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:35AM (#4861550) Homepage
    Am I the only one that at first glance read that as:

    For the past hundred years or so motorcycle accidents have had an unfortunate potential for particularly horrific injuries, or worse; Improvements in safety gear

    Methinks I need some coffee... :/
  • A while ago I saw a show on TV about an innovation made by Honda. They were making airbags on the outside of cars. In case of a crash the victim would be hurt less. In combination with a wearable airbag things would become even better.

    On the other hand I would also suggest investing in technology to prevent accidents from happening as well as in damage reducing gear. We can build the electronics to accomplish this in planes, why not in cars&bikes?
    • On the other hand I would also suggest investing in technology to prevent accidents from happening as well as in damage reducing gear. We can build the electronics to accomplish this in planes, why not in cars&bikes?


      Like, for instance, hundreds of hours of intensive full time operator training?

  • by Lazarus_Bitmap (593726) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:36AM (#4861557)
    Here in Dallas, we've long been on the cutting edge of this type of technology. Specialized silicon-based versions have been available for some time, though they seem to be much more popular with women than men...

  • Michelin... (Score:2, Funny)

    by giel (554962)

    Cool! I imagine what a motercyclist will look like during or after an accident, I guess like this: the (good old) Michelin-guy [michelin.com].

  • ... of that James Bond coat that inflated to turn the wearer into an oversized inflatable golf-ball-like object.

    Be the envy of your friends - turn into a bouncy ball at the touch of button. Be known as Pinball forever.

    Cheers,

    Toby Haynes

  • This seems fine for when a biker hits another vehicle more or less head on but there are plenty of accidents where this wouldn't help at all. During the summer I came across two motorcycle accidents, one of which was sadly fatal (lots of blood. Not very nice). In one of them the victim just lost control of his bike on a bend and hit his head on the curb hard, and in the other one the bike was clipped from behind by a car and the rider fell off her bike and thankfully ended up in a bush with little more than bruises. The point is that in neither of these cases did the rider (or bike) experience forces in excess of 10 g's until the moment they hit the road, and possibly not even then.

    I'm saying that this is a bad device, just that its applicability is limited.
  • American sales will have to wait since the U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to set standards for such a device."

    So, how many motorcyclists will die a preventable death before the DOT gets off its ass and allows these.
    • The company wants to avoid a situation where they introduce the vest into the US and the government comes along a few months later and sets higher standards for similar devices than what the vest has been engineered for, inviting potential lawsuits down the road. Having said that, I suspect there will be a pretty good number of grey market US sales in the meantime through eBay and third-party distributors.
    • Talk to the company about it - they're the ones that are declining to sell them. The fact that the DOT doesn't have standards for it is irrelevant.

      All that means is that the company is afraid of putting out a product that might not spec up in the future. Not that there's a government conspiracy to continue to let idiots die on dangerous vehicles.
      • It doesn't remove the basic fact that these lifesaving devices will not be legally available in the U.S. because of our bureaucracy. Whether it's an active negative action of the bureaucracy, or a company not doing something lifesaving because it is afraid of same, it's still a bureaucracy operating to the detriment of the people.

        Of course I could still be bitter against the DOT because they won't allow the fast, safe and fuel efficient Lotus Elise into the U.S.

        Well, that and mandating airbags in cars before the technology was up to an acceptable and safe level, the cause of some major injuries to me.
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:09AM (#4861751)
      So, how many motorcyclists will die a preventable death before the DOT gets off its ass and allows these.

      Or, how many would be injured or die due to use of a "safety" device not properly tested and evaluated, which may introduce other, more serious problems. Even though "It seemed like a good idea at the time".

      These things may be the best prevention device going. Or, they may compound the problems in a crash. Causing the rider to tumble instead of slide, inadvertant activations, too much force resulting in broken ribs, compatibility with other user worn articles (backpacks, etc), and on and on.

      Just because it looks like a good idea doesn't mean it is a good idea.
      • They've already done extensive testing for situations a rider might encounter. They are holding off because they're afraid of what the business effects and liability will be if the the DOT later makes a regulation that screws them. Meanwhile, it'll be widely sold in the safety-conscious EU.

        Not that I personally love airbags. I hate U.S.-style airbags in cars. But if they're being made, U.S. consumers should have a choice to purchase them.
  • by in_ur_face (177250) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:43AM (#4861595)
    i'm sorry but i still feel much more comfortable in my full leathers. not only is my whole body protected, but that air bag looks like it would do more damage then good for the rider.

    when riding, its important not to have anything on your body in case of a fall. For instance, if you wear a backpack, it has been shown not to be safe in the event of a fall (increased back injury, etc...). this is why they have tank/trunk bags. But this air bag looks like it would only protect your back and cause a more ackward fall in the case of an accident.

    also price is rediculous. good full leaters will run you around 500$. the price of the vest is well over that (sure its becuase it is early development phase but still). what about re packing your air bag? i'm sure thats more $$$ too

    good concept but not good enough
  • My airbag (Score:5, Funny)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:44AM (#4861597) Homepage
    always sits behind me on the motorcycle.

    (dont let her know I said that or she'll yell at me!)
  • I think this is a step in the wrong direction, and will lead to more accidents and deaths down the road.

    Any biker who's rode more than 10,000 miles will have many tales to tell you of stupid cagers trying to kill them, with only the biker's wits and reflexes to save them. In a way, it's a way of separating men who trust themselves from the great scared masses who can't be trusted with dangerous machines, be they motorcycles, or even handguns.

    But with this, the stupid cager masses will think they will be invulnerable on a bike, and take up riding. Soon, the body count will rise, how much will an airbag protect one against being run over by a semi, or high siding into a tree at 80 mph?

    It's a lot like sin, the safest way to ride is not to rely on gear, but constant, ceaseless vigiliance, and no matter how much you try to protect yourself and your family from sin and temptation, the best way to prevent the excrutiating pain of eternal Damnation is ceaseless, constant vigilance, and being born Catholic.
    • You know, there are people on bikes acting careless already. Bikes are the minority on the road (here in Dallas, anyway). It never fails that when I do see them, for the most part, they are doing one of the following:
      - going insanely faster than any vehicle with four or more wheels
      - driving said speed in the rain
      - driving said speed in-between car lanes on the freeway
      - driving said speed on the shoulders of the freeway

      Just an observation from one of the "stupid cager masses".
    • I think there have been studies (aren't there always :-) that relate to this. Too tired to look them up just now. Basic point was that increased safety equipment tends to lead to decreased safe driving/riding. Give somebody an airbag and they're more liable to rely on the airbag to save them in a crash, rather than driving safely to avoid crashes in the first place. I suspect that the same thing applies here - give somebody an airbag suit and they're likely to be less careful when riding. The airbag suit will save them if something goes wrong, after all. I think the best thing to do is to fit all cars and motorbikes with a large and pointy spike right in the middle of the wheel/bars, pointed right at your head. This would encourage people to be very, very sure that they're not going to crash into anything that might cause them to nod too enthusiastically.
  • Wireless? (Score:2, Funny)

    by GedLandsEnd (537573)
    The STM also features a radio transmitter that wirelessly links the box to a receiver built-into the D-Air vest.

    Someone hits their garage door opener and you get blown off your bike...

    nice
  • by davidfsmith (81296) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:44AM (#4861609) Homepage
    However it wouldn't have stopped my thigh bone being broken when I was "helped" off my bike at a junction by a kindly lady pulling across my path.

    What you probably need is a version of the michelin man suit !

    Anything that adds to the protection of motorbike pilots has to be a good thing, but I would suggest that a lot of the problem is from two areas, pilots riding too fast for the conditions, and car drivers / other road users not being aware of bikes.

    I was wearing a jacket with armour in it, and a 400ukp crash helmet, without the full face lid I would be dead as the lower part of it seemed to have been the first point of contact I had with the ground as I performed a face plant on my way to going 30-0 mph in a few feet. When on a bike assume all other road users are idiots, and spend as mcuh money as you can (and more) on your personal protection, it *will* save your life!

    If you have an accident on your bike the next important bit is the speed you get taken to somewhere that can put you back together... luckily I crashed a 2 minute ambulance ride away from the local hospital (and you have to hope that as you lie there in the road a "helpful" stranger doesn't remove your crash helmet unless they know what they are doing)
  • by XNormal (8617) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:46AM (#4861613) Homepage
    This article [wired.com] in Wired from 1999 describes an airbag vest developed by Japanese construction giant Kajima to protect construction workers from falls.
  • The sensors onboard the STM will watch for telltale signs such as a sudden deceleration force of about ten times that of gravity that precede a collision.

    Yeah, riiiiiight...
    and while they're at it why don't they try detecting other tell-tale signs like profuse bleeding and bone fractures that also precede a collision.

    I guess when the computer determines an "impending accident" it dumps 1.21 jiggawatts into the flux capacitor.

    -
    • by BradleyUffner (103496) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:25AM (#4861841) Homepage
      "Yeah, riiiiiight...

      and while they're at it why don't they try detecting other tell-tale signs like profuse bleeding and bone fractures that also precede a collision."
      I'm going to assume them mean the collision between the rider and the ground, or other object. When the rider is thrown from the bike it would mean that the bike has alrady hit something and the rider is being carried by innertia. The sudden deceleration of the bike triggers the wearable airbag before the rider actually impacts something.
  • I'll pass thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:50AM (#4861638) Homepage Journal
    It's bad enough we have hand grenades in the steering wheels of our new cars (another reason I only drive old cars) but now we'll be wearing one too?

    Thanks, I'll pass. When I ride my FZR600, I wear heavy leather gloves, massive leather jacket (along with a spine brace), two pairs of pants (inner one are jeans, outer: leather) and a full helmet.

    When I flipped my FZR once and was thrown off, the only thing bruised was my pride (and all the expensive fiberglas on the bike.)

    If I want hand grenades attached to my jacket, I'll join the military.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    After witnessing my friend's death due to a biking accident ( crashed into a parked car at more then 4 times the speed limit ( 180+ kph)) i decided to sell my bike.
    It was the 3d person of a 15 member group of bikers that had died in the course of about 2 years, and i had enough. OK, most of the blame was up to us, we drove at incredible speeds on public roads ( 200 kph+ was not at all unusual ( and it wasn't on a highway or speedway). We did have a lot of experience on circuit tests and occasional amateur racing. But nothing protects you from your own stupity or that of others that cross your path ...

    On the other had, it's just plain impossible to respect the speed limits with any stock supersport bike these days. ( I used to have a Suzuki TL-1000 R, standard 138 hp, but after carefull tuning it got up to about 150 hp, and reached speeds of around 290 kph ) Going slower then about 80-90 per hour is impossible with this bike ...

    Anyway,I've been reading about this airbag jacket for a while now, but i'm not sure that this kind of stuff will really help a lot.
    Sure, it does offer some more support, but at high speeds, i guess it won't really help a lot. And the kick in biking for me was all about speed ... ok the romantic idea of the freedom and joy of biking does have some truth in it ...
    But the real kick is in scraping your knee-pads at high-speed turns ...
    And that's where protective clothing really is important, I've been fairly happy with the dianese protective clothes, they've saved my from road burn a few times already, when i was luchky enough to fall at places where i was going slow enough to survive , and had enough place to slide to a halt ...Never had anything more then some slight burns and scratches and some broken fingers ...
    • by petrilli (568256) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:10AM (#4861758) Homepage

      On the other had, it's just plain impossible to respect the speed limits with any stock supersport bike these days.


      Bullsh*t. It's called self-control. I ride quickly on the open roads, as do all my friends, but that doesn't mean we ride at 100MPH+ on the streets. That's what track days are for.

      I'm sorry, but you and your friends were nothing more than squids who took stupid risks, and paid the price. Personal responsibility, buster. It's just like people who choose to ride without a helmet, in shorts and a set of flip flops on a bike that can do 200MPH. Yeah, there's using your noggin.

      Darwinian evolution. Get out of the gene pool.
    • by jonerik (308303) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @11:22AM (#4862223)
      It was the 3d person of a 15 member group of bikers that had died in the course of about 2 years, and i had enough. OK, most of the blame was up to us, we drove at incredible speeds on public roads ( 200 kph+ was not at all unusual

      Christ, what was the name of this group? The Lemmings?
  • Doubtful... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ivrcti (535150) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:55AM (#4861663)

    I rode every day for 7 years and I'm not sure about this product. This won't protect against the slide (as others have already pointed out), but that only accounts for about 5-10% of accidents.

    The biggest cause of motorcyle accidents is when the car driver doesn't see you and either turns left in front of you, or pulls into your lane. In the left hand turn accident, the bike would experience the sudden deacceleration and the vest would inflate. But if it does, the inflated vest makes you a slightly more "round shape." I believe this would tend to cause more rolling and less sliding. At 30+ mph, the rolling effect would likely protect the head and neck (IF you are wearing a helmet), but tend to cause a LOT more arm and leg injuries.

    In the accident where a car pulls into your lane, you usually bounce off the car and go into an uncontrolled tumble. I don't believe the vest would inflate.

    I also wonder about the vulnerability of the wireless link. If a passing cell phone/CB/Ham radio/TV tower caused it to go off accidentally, it would almost certainly cause an accident.

    The biggest hurdle by far, though is cost and use. Most riders are young, predominately male. As a general rule, we either are so young we don't fully understand the risk of riding (or after about 2 weeks of street riding) we realize the risk and accept it as the cost for our freedom. Most riders will spend plenty of money on their bike, but not much at all on their gear, so you would first have to convince the young guy that the risk will really be minimized and that the financial cost is worth the reduction in risk. Not an easy sale! I give it a 10% chance of being successful.

    • Re:Doubtful... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @11:39AM (#4862364) Homepage Journal

      I agree, but I'll add something.

      The biggest problem with motorcycle accidents is spinal cord and head injuries, which this device will do nothing to prevent. All other types of injuries commonly associated with motorcycle accidents are very survivable (road rash, bruises, the occasional broken bone, etc...).

      I remember a few years ago, someone came out with a motorcycle seatbelt which could be retrofitted to a motorcycle. Not surprisingly, very few bought the idea. The reason is simple: it is fairly common for motorcycles to "come out from under" a rider; slick asphalt or gravel, a flat tire, or locking either wheel while braking will cause a motorcycle to fall over, and most riders would rather ditch the bike than be dragged along with it. (motorcycles will slide on the pavement much farther than the rider.) Once again, we have a device which inspires little confidence in its safety because:

      • The number of accidents in which this device would protect the rider is relatively small, and the degree of protection is relatively minor - the road rash and bruises this device would prevent are relatively insignificant compared to the spinal cord and head injuries feared by the safety-conscious riders.
      • The possibility of this complicating injuries in an accident is relatively large.
      This is the kind of device which is invented by technicians wearing lab coats, rather than real riders. Most riders are open to safety enhancements, however, the nature of motorcycle riding dictates that different methods of safety be used. In cars, ejection of passengers results in injuries more often than not; with motorcycles, it's just the opposite - many motorcyclists (myself included) are still alive today because they separated themselves from the bike before or during an impending accident. While airbags and seatbelts may increase the safety of automobiles, they have the opposite effect in motorcycles - they tend to complicate injuries while offering very little in the way of accident protection.
      • Re:Doubtful... (Score:3, Informative)

        by olman (127310)
        The biggest problem with motorcycle accidents is spinal cord and head injuries, which this device will do nothing to prevent.


        Doesn't protect your back? Did you look at the link? This suit has BIGGER airbag protecting your back than ribcage! Anyone riding a bike without a helmet deserves what they get IMHO.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:55AM (#4861668) Journal
    Always assume that anyone driving a car, truck, etc, is one or more of:
    • Blind
    • Drunk
    • Stoned
    • Stupid
  • by panker (461977) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:56AM (#4861673)
    I have ridden motorcycles for quite some time, and everyone I know has dropped their bike while parked at least once. Having your airbag vest go off at that time would make the event even more embarassing that it already is.
  • Imagine, you drive peacefully, suddenly realize you heading in for a bad collision.... you think 'at least i have that jacket' and at that time you have the battery warning light switching on !!!
  • Snow Crash (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Apocalypse111 (597674)
    Didn't the book Snow Crash have something similar in it? I think both YT and Hiro were wearing suits that incorporated similar stuff to this.
  • Just goes to show that the Michelin Man was way ahead of his time.
  • Son, I'm telling you for the last time! If you don't put on your D-Air vest you can't go outside and and play!

    *Watching a football game listening to the announcer*

    Ouch! You know that's going to leave a bruise! I think that's the second D-Air vest that hasn't gone off today!

  • I wonder... (Score:2, Funny)

    by HedRat (613308)
    If it comes with Northstar as an option.

    N.S. Sir, our sensors indicate that your wearable air bag has actuated. Are you currently bouncing down the road like a beachball?

    Biker: Unmff, ouch!, Damn!...nnngggohhh...
  • Judging from the picture and the article, it doesn't seem as if the device is going to provide too much protection against serious head injuries, which are a major cause of motorcycle fatalities.
  • I can just see it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BurntHombre (68174) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:09AM (#4861747)
    So your leg will be lying over there...

    And your arm will be hanging from that tree...

    And your head will be there by the curb...

    But your torso will be in a remarkably preserved state!

  • Will these come in the Bright Colors got the Crotch Rocketeers? Basic Black for the Harley riders?

    What about alternate uses
    -Base Jumping safety device
    -new yuppie teach-your-kid-to-ride-a-bike saftey device
    -New Staight Jacket for the mentally Ill
    -Really safe sex device

  • This Greek manufacturer [colori.net] is doing something similar - although the "trigger" is a bit more low-tech: A proximity sensor sensing distance between rider and bike (actually a steel cable hooked to your ride :-) ). See pictures here [colori.net] and here [colori.net]. Unfortunately the site is a bit low on textual info.
    • Sorry for replying to my own post...

      I sure hope it's rechargeable, because there's bound to be a lot of guys who will forget to unhook on getting off, as is usual with new equipment....

  • Really body armor can do a pretty good job already on injuries to your torso. A full face helmet is also a must. The real worry is head/spinal cord injuries - a system to hold your helmet in a safe position would be more effective in my opinion, but difficult and inconvenient. Even better is training and awareness and not riding drunk - a huge percentage of motorcycle fatalities are single vehicle crashes where the rider is drunk. By not being an idiot and wearing conventional protective gear you're really in pretty good shape.
  • Until then.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nolife (233813) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:20AM (#4861805) Homepage Journal
    Anyone that rides a motorcycle hopefully already knows this.. use LEATHER!!

    It's not just a Harley thing or a status symbol, it is for safety. Leather boots, pants and gloves with hard sole boots or shoes. In a motorcycle ejection or fall off, it is better to gradually slide to a stop then to stick to the ground and tumble around. Leather will allow you to slide while protecting the skin and provide a decent stopping friction. It does not help much when slamming into something where conservation of momentum is tested but for most motorcycle dumps and mishaps it can save your life.
    • Re:Until then.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Scrameustache (459504)
      Don't forget a full-face helmet.

      I was coming home on my bike once, in traffic, and this FUCKING IDIOT threw his cigarette out the freakin' window, it flew right into my left eye.

      Now lemme tell you, there is nothing like red-hot ashes in your eye to make you realise the value of a full-face helmet (it was really hot, so my visor was up). I still can't believe I managed to get to the curb and stop safelly without being run over by another idiot...
      Of course now whenever I see someone throw a cigarette out of a car window I get an adrenaline rush and the urge to ram their car, drag them out and beat them to a bloody pulp...sigh.

  • I wonder how many people will get one of these jackets and forget to take it off when they get off their motorcycle... The rider starts walking away, then the sensing circuits in the jacket detect that the rider and motorcycle are getting further away, then PFFFFFFT, instant fat rider! :^)

    Coincidentally, I actually rode my Honda Magna 750 [mac.com] motorcycle into work today...
  • by clickety6 (141178) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:26AM (#4861847)

    It looks the same and works identically except that the trigger goes off if the wearer acheives speeds of more than 20 miles per hour, as on a Segway this is an obvious sign of a collision...

  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:29AM (#4861874)
    The primary problem that airbags address is hitting the windshield or steering wheel with your head. But on a motorcycle, the head is already well protected by the helmet. The main concern would seem to be the spine. Is an airbag the best way of protecting that?

    Perhaps the various semi-rigid body armors are better after all. Does anybody know how effective they actually are? Are there any studies or tests?

  • by NotTheNickIWanted (614945) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @11:21AM (#4862212)
    ...your motorcycle gear may be used as a flotation device.
  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @12:18PM (#4862720) Homepage Journal


    Considering that the product is coming out of Italy, where scooters are wildly popular within cities, I have the feeling this vest is primarily going to be sold to the scooter crowd. According to this BBC
    article [bbc.co.uk],

    "scooters and motorcycles are the principal cause of death in Italy among youths aged 19 to 24"



    Speaking in general terms, the accidents that scooter users suffer in Italian cities are likely to be less extreme than motorcyclists in the US. There are probably fewer collisions with automobiles compared to the overall number of scooter spills due to other mishaps such as leaning out too far to grab a woman's ass (I have personally witnessed this maneuver in Rome). In such circumstances, this vest will probably decrease the impact of a low-speed tumble.

    Though statistics show a lot of Italian deaths caused by scooter accidents, that doesn't mean scooter riding itself is so dangerous that injuries can't be mitigated by products like this. It means that there are a LOT of people tooling around on scooters in Italy. If you go there, you'll notice that right away.
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @01:02PM (#4863070) Homepage
    12v relay - $3.50
    9v battery - $2.29
    momentary contact switch - $0.79
    WarDriving with a spark gap generator to swamp the sensor in the exploding vest - priceless
    --

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