Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
Considering that motorcycle riders are 20 times more likely to die than automobile drivers, in case of a crash, an airbag garment offers much-needed protection from serious harm on impact.
Helite, a French company that manufactures airbag garments for motorcycle riders, and other recreational sports and professional situations where there is a danger of falling(1), showcased the latest Helite Turtle Airbag vest for cyclists, at CES 2019.
The vest may be worn on top on any other sort of sports or professional outerwear. It is velcro-adjustable for fit. The new Turtle aspect of the vest comes from an extra rigid back piece, covering the main protection air channels, designed to diffuse the forces of impact, like a turtle shell in the back of the vest. This extra shell makes it possible to deploy the vest 6 times before having to send it back to Helite for inspection, unless it is punctured, upon impact in an accident.
Helite Airbag garments are equipped with the fastest mechanical CO2 deployment device on the market. A Helite Airbag garment deploys in one-tenth of a second. A deployed garment stiffens the torso channels with air, which protect vital organs (lungs, liver, stomach and pancreas) within the abdomen and chest cavity. The air channels also provide firm and rigid support for head and neck. The shape of the garments dips down in the back to protect 100% of the spine. Channels also inflate on the sides, protecting hips and kidneys.
Replaceable CO2 cartridges fit inside a zippered pocket on the outside front of the garment. Sixty gram and one hundred gram CO2 cartridges are available, depending on garment sizes, which range from small to extra large. The garments are tethered to bike handlebars with a clip-on mechanism. It takes a very strong jerk to release the air into the air channels if you just want to test the mechanism.
Various aspects and iterations of the Helite airbag garment invention are patented such as:
- the inflating device in WO2011148351A1, titled Device for inflating airbag, also recited in the same family Italian patent IT1400490B1 and European patent EP2576295A
- whole body protection in US20050279559A1, titled Airbag type safety device
- protection from whiplash in WO2011148350A1, titled Protective garment with an airbag, and WO2013107951A1, titled Protecting device for the head and the neck of an individual
- improved manufacturing process for airbag garments in WO2014125368A2, titled Personal protective equipment for protecting a user, also recited in the same family patents GB2510859A and EP2956026 with the same title
- garment versatility without sacrificing safety in WO2011148353A1, titled Protective garment with an airbag, also granted in the same family Italian patent IT1400486B1 and the European patent EP2575517A with the same title
- garment comfort for daily use in WO2011148354A1, titled Protection garment with an airbag, also granted in the same family Italian patent IT1400264B1 and the European patent EP2572218A1 with the same title.
- a more versatile deployment device in FR3051631(A1), titled Système déployable et equipment comprenant un tel système déployable, also granted as European patent EP3248491(A1), titled in English Deployable system and device including such a deployable system.
Below an image of the Helite Turtle vest, together with a technical drawing of the Turtle vest deployed, showing the blue inflated air channels and the Turtle shell back piece in yellow.
Incidentally, the Helite airbag vest invention, showcased at CES 2019, is unrelated to France's grassroots protest movement called the "Gilets Jaunes" (Yellow Vests, in English) which has grabbed headlines, in France and elsewhere, since the end 2018 (The Guardian, Dec. 2018, Nov. 2018).
(1) The garments offer protection from falls in a variety of situations beyond bike and motorbike riding, for example, for laborers working on a scaffold, or for people on horseback.
The Guardian (Dec 3, 2018) Who are the Gilets Jaunes and what do they want?
The Guardian (Nov. 16, 2018) Gilets Jaune protesters are threatening to bring France to a standstill.