The popularity of cycling has increased dramatically over the last decade, especially in the U.S. And even if Lance Armstrong isn’t going to be quite the driving force behind this phenomenon anymore, the trend is likely to continue as gas prices show no signs of dropping. Meanwhile the number of cars on the road are increasing, and a mix of the two is especially dangerous for cyclists. It’s a problem they’ve been dealing with in Europe for some time and now a Dutch firm, known as TNO, is working on an external airbag system to protect cyclists hit by cars.
TNO’s task is twofold: it not only wants to study parts of a car a cyclist is likely to come into contact with, but also how best to incorporate airbags into these parts. Additionally, a system that detects collisions with a bike needs to be devised, since those systems used to detect collisions with more solid objects (like a car) won’t necessarily be helpful. TNO’s system uses a camera mounted in the rear-view mirror to detect a collision, and then applies the brakes and activates an airbag at the bottom of the windshield. It’s not quite an all-encompassing solution, but TNO’s research suggests that it could mean a dramatic reduction in serious injuries caused by such accidents.
Interestingly, Volvo already has a similar system up and running, but it’ s still new and unclear if or when it will become available in the U.S. However, TNO, armed with a 1 million euro grant from the Dutch government, should be able to provide Volvo with the kind of competition required for these sorts of features to be made an industry-wide standard. Nevertheless, it will likely be some time before we see the technology stateside, and even once it does make it over, we urge drivers and cyclists to exercise caution out on the road.