12 November 2012

External Airbags on Cars - Update

Here's another update about the Dutch external airbags on cars to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Informative little film. Looks like the project we've written about previously is coming along nicely.

Also, it's refreshing to see some rationality included in the commentary:

"A cyclist has limited chances of survival in accidents over 40 km/h - the average accident speed. Commercially-available cycle helmets offer some protection but in limited scenarios and at a maximum speed of 20 km/h..."


Rui said...

The last frame from the video is priceless:


Grendel said...

~30 seconds in the narrator declares in 2011 there were 200 cyclist deaths in NL. This makes the US infrastructure with its lack of segregated bike facilities far safer.

200:17Mil NL
>800:312Mil USA

Slow Factory said...

Grendel, there are roughly 20 times more people in the USA than in the Netherlands, but also there are roughly 25 times more cycle trips per capita in the Netherlands than in the USA. Just based on these two stats, cycling is about 3.5 times more safe in the Netherlands than in the USA.


In the Netherlands and to some extent in Denmark, Germany and Sweden external airbags and automatic braking might make sense as complementary measures. The problem here is that if EU-mandated this technology will be one of the only safety enhancements for cyclists and pedestrians in much of the less developed EU countries, and will serve as a distraction for solutions that e.g. stop crashes from happening in the first place and, even before that, create subjective safety.

The other major problem is that these technologies - by the way did you notice the automatically-rising bonnet (hood)? - will only appear slowly, as people buy new vehicles. As used vehicles tend to move east and south as richer western and northern Europeans buy new cars, it will take a lot of time before even half of the vehicles in these areas have them (perhaps 5 years after the same share in the west and north), and I would guess at least 15 years after implementation when virtually all cars on the road have them (so maybe the year 2032...)

bikefish said...

Interesting that the air bag is designed to protect only the head of the cyclist. In crashes at speeds common on arterials (35+ mph or about 50+ kph) I would think internal injuries would tend to be fatal even if the head is protected.

ubringliten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ubringliten said...


You are just joking right? Of that 17 millions, over 30% of that are cycling. What do you think is the percentage of Americans cycle of that 312 millions?

If you take into account all modes of transportation, US exceeds over first world nations at 33,000 auto-related deaths, while only 700 in the whole country of the Netherlands. And if you want to look at the percentage, the Netherlands is far safer than in the US.

And remember, all ages cycle in the Netherlands while only young and middle-aged men ride in the USA.

crapbournemouthcyclist said...

This air-bag does virtually nothing to decrease the acceleration to the cyclist's body or head. It is the internal forces that result from the acceleration that cause most injury. Funny how the video does not quote the actual figures for the forces involved with and without the bag!

Try and get to see the BBC Horizon program 'Surviving a car crash'. Although it only concentrates on survivability as a car occupant, it gives great insight into the mechanisms of how the body is harmed in a crash!

To me - this airbag seems to be just a way of protecting the car's windscreen!

I wonder how it will respond to hitting a small animal? Will it deploy while the car is still travelling at speed?
How about a system that limits car speeds to the local speed limits - that will save more lives.

Slow Factory said...

I agree that this does nothing for small mammals of any kind - including humans - who are too short to go up on the bonnet.

Frits B said...

I'm afraid I must agree with crapbournemouthcyclist on his assumption that this airbag primarily protects the car's windshield and roof. The situation is familiar to me: I have had a moped rider on my bonnet/hood crossing my path when I was doing 70 kph (40 mph). He broke my windshield, dented my roof and slid off the car at the back. No helmet but only broken ribs and a leg. The car was a writeoff.
Cyclists' deaths in the Netherlands are only too often to blame on the cyclists themselves. Two were killed last year on an arterial road on my doorstep, simply because they crossed thinking that a lorry/van can stop from 50 kph within 10 metres/30ft. They cannot, and a cyclist doesn't survive a head-on collison with a mass of steel of over 3 tons. Last week a 19 year old girl was killed by an ambulance at a crossing with traffic lights, in the middle of the night (3:45 am). Girl ran a red light, apparently assuming that the ambulance would stop. These are avoidable and useless deaths, and I don't think an airbag like the one suggested will do much good when cyclists themselves cause the accidents.

Tallycyclist said...

The comment about the NL being more dangerous for cycling than the US is completely misinterpreted, as Slow Factory pointed out. The rate of cycling in the US hovers barely above 1%, meaning there are barely more than 3.12 million people commuting by bike. It is around 27% in NL, meaning 4.6 million cyclists. The official figure of cyclist fatalities I've seen for NL was around 167. In the US, it was more than 700. If 4.6 million people cycled daily in the US, this fatality rate would like be over 1000. That alone means that cycling is more than 5 times safer; the differential is actually much greater. And in all my years cycling in Florida, I have yet to see an elderly women cyclists, elderly male above 50's or pre-teen children, and very few teens.

KruidigMeisje said...

I was at the scene of the demo, and TNO mentioned after the demo that the head had been subjected to a HIC of 500 during the crash. 1000 is usually fatal, 2100 is without airbag. So the cyclist now has a chance of getting out of hospital alive.
But preventing a crash in the first place seems far more effective, and there segregated infrastructure was seen by all as attracting a lot of cyclists and enhancing safety a lot.
@Grendel:besides ubringlisten's sensible commentary, please take into account that (according to an astonished car scientist) NL is the only country in the world to have more cyclist fatalities than pedestrian fatalaties. The guy was sincerely proposing a research project to find out how this number could be explained. Perhaps you can help him out?
BTW: even the Hope group (THE european network for helmet promotion) mentioned that helmets cannot be proven to make much of a difference IRL. Which sounded logical after the disclosure that the main focus during design is aestetics and that the safety limit helps dissipitate 87% of the energy at 6 km/h. I personaly ride a lot faster ......
(unless I am stuck in cyclist traffic)