Launched in the market in September, the vest developed by the French company Helite anticipates falls and collisions with vehicles, protecting the chest, neck and back. Gérard Thevenot, the company's CEO, expects the product to be available soon in Brazil.
In France, 2 million people ride bikes every day and that number is likely to increase in the coming years. “Skinny” is an environmentally friendly means of transportation, which has been encouraged and even subsidized by some municipalities, such as Paris.
The city multiplies the construction of bike lanes in the capital and restricts the circulation of cars to reduce pollution and the emission of polluting gases.
Across Europe, it is estimated that 7% of assets cycle to work every day. A progression that led the French company Helite, which specializes in professional motorcycle and rider airbags, to identify a still unexplored niche of protection for cyclists hitherto restricted to the helmet.
“The airbag vest will protect the chest, neck and abdomen, which are quite common injuries in bicycle accidents. In general, cyclists are hit by cars that cross the road or cannot stop when a truck in front suddenly brakes, for example, ”Gérard Thevenot, CEO of Helite, told RFI.
French company creates airbag for cyclists – Foto: Divulgação
The vest, he explains, will prevent injuries to the upper body. In most accidents, he says, the head is thrown backwards and hits the vertebrae, with serious consequences.
“The vest also provides good back protection where about 20% of the most serious injuries occur,” he says.
The device has been tested in several crash tests at the company's lab in Poisy in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France. “We try to test every kind of accident that can happen to a cyclist,” explains Thévenot.
The equipment, made of thermal nylon, was invented by a group of company engineers who worked about two years on a sophisticated algorithm that analyzes the rider's movements in real time. Two sensors, one on the vest and one on the bike seat, connect and provide the rider's position, speed, and anticipate falls and shocks.
The accident is detected in 60 milliseconds and the airbag inflates in 80 milliseconds. “The big difficulty was in fact determining an algorithm that triggered the airbag at the right time of the crash. Not when the bike goes down a sidewalk, brakes or changes direction, for example, ”explains the company representative.
"The vest is thus designed to function only when it detects a collision with a car, truck, wall or obstacle, or in the event of a fall. If the rider falls, even in a low risk situation, he will be protected. . "
Company targets Brazilian market
The company hopes to be able to market the product in Brazil, but first has to close a contract with a cycling material distribution network. Another difficulty, Thévenot points out, is the import tax. “The rates are high and the final cost of the product will eventually be high,” he says.
In France, the airbag costs 690 euros, the equivalent of $ 3,140. “We would love to penetrate the Brazilian market, there are certainly many lives that can be saved,” he says.
In the first quarter of this year alone, in São Paulo, there were 16 deaths with cyclists in traffic accidents – which is 220% more than last year. The data were released by Infosiga, an agency linked to the state government, in April this year.
Protection for scooters and the elderly
With the increase in the number of electric scooters in France, and the often serious and fatal accidents, the company is now developing vehicle-specific protection. The airbag will also work predictably.
“Someone's movements on a scooter are different from a person on a bicycle. In this case, we combine information about bike and rider movements. Putting the data together, we know if it is an accident or a normal use. Now we need to work out the algorithm for the scooter, ”he details.
The senior market is also targeted by the French company, which invests in the creation of an airbag for the elderly.
“It's a device that protects the hip. Around 80, 85 years old, if a person falls, they can break the proximal femur, causing trouble walking. If one stops walking at 80, life expectancy is greatly reduced: quality of life drops and people lose their will to live. We will all grow old someday and we will need this kind of product, ”he believes.
For now, the equipment is only available in Europe, as the United States requires specific certification.