In the Netherlands, concern for biker safety has reached new heights: car company TNO has developed the world’s first exterior airbag, to cushion the road’s most vulnerable travelers—cyclists and pedestrians—in the event of a collision.
Year after year in the Netherlands, pedestrians and cyclists make up about a third of all traffic fatalities. The airbag project came about as a way to shrink that figure, at the behest of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, who gave TNO 1 million euros to develop the technology.
The exterior airbags cover the lower portion of the windshield, creating a softer landing for a human skull flying through the air at 25 miles per hour than, say, a pane of glass. A camera positioned beneath the rear-view mirror can determine if the car is approaching any pedestrians or cyclists, and if sensors in the car’s bumper detect contact—here comes the airbag.
After developing the new feature for two years, TNO showed them off this November in a crash test with a dummy cyclist. The results were not bad: A car traveling at 40 km per hour, the average speed at the time of accident, ended up causing fewer brain and bone injuries nearly half the time.
While TNO’s airbags are just beginning to make their way into car designs, Volvo beat the Dutch company to the chase. Last year, the Swedish carmaker released a V40 with the world’s first pedestrian airbag. Check out that car’s new technology here.