Motorcyclists have long been the most vulnerable road users because they do not have an effective barrier between themselves and other objects in an accident. A flurry of activity in motorcycle protective gear could change things. Honda recently showed its first air-bag on a motorcycle and manufacturers are developing a cross between the airbag and a protective jacket designed to protect the motorcycle rider’s neck and spine in the event of an accident.
One of the first to market with the new design is Hit-Air which sells a range of jackets and vests featuring airbag technology designed to keep riders safe and comfortable in a wide range of driving and climatic conditions. The jackets are already in use by police departments in Brazil, Italy, Japan and Spain and appear to offer significantly greater protection than a normal jacket. The inflatable vests are finding application in many other potentially dangerous activities such as horseriding and power sports.
Activation is simple and automatic. A coiled wire is attached to both the motorcycle and the jacket. Once the rider and the motorcycle are separated, the coiled wire pulls a "key" out of a gas release system and inert gas inflates the air cushion. The inflated jacket provides the necessary impact protection. After a few seconds the gas is automatically released through the gas release valve. Once the gas is released a new cartridge can be installed and the jacket is ready for reuse.