A revolution in road bike safety

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Airbags have, for years, been a just-over-the-horizon technology promising to massively elevate impact protection. Top-level road racers are just now taking advantage of the Dainese D-Air and Alpinestars TechAir systems, but as yet, only rudimentary systems requiring a lanyard connection to the motorcycle have been available to road riders. With the releases of Dainese D-Air Street, motorcyclists will benefit from a 75 percent reduction in impact forces to the back over a CE2 back protector and an 89 percent reduction over a CE chest protector. D-Air Street also helps prevent hyperextension, hyperflexion and compression of the neck, all while inflating in as little as 45 milliseconds to guard against frontal impacts. This is the next level of safety.

D-Air Street has four main components:
- An ECU/user interface that mounts in the cockpit/on the bars.
- A pair accelerometers that mount on the forks.
- A lean angle sensor under the seat that detects falls.
- The actual airbag unit on the rider.

As you can see, that’s a far, far more complicated, sophisticated setup than the primitive airbag vests that have been on the market for a while. Those work like the kill switch on a jet ski or quad, requiring you to separate from the machine, physically pulling a switch that triggers inflation. The problems with that setup are obvious: impacts can occur without you leaving the bike and the potential for accidental inflation is huge. With D-Air Street, those accelerometers mounted on the furthest-forward part of the bike — the lower forks — can detect an accident and trigger inflation in .025 seconds. ie before you even know you’ve hit something. There’s zero potential for accidental inflation, D-Air Street’s connection between user-worn garments and the ECU is completely wireless.

Why is there a need for a wearable airbag on the road?

According to the Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study, the most frequent road accident for motorcycles is impact with an automobile. Those account for 60 percent of all accidents. The time between the motorcycle impacting the car and the rider hitting is just .08 seconds. After the head (which should already be protected by a helmet), the most frequently injured body parts in those accidents are the chest, abdomen and back. As you can see, D-Air Street inflates to provide comprehensive coverage of the chest, upper abdomen, collar bones, neck and the entirety of the back. This area of coverage is remarkable, expanding safety away from small bits of body armor to nearly the entire upper body.

Does D-Air work just in head-on impacts?

No. The lean angle sensor mounted under the seat will detect falls or slides, again triggering inflation and providing all the above protection, again in an incredibly short time.

With a wireless connection, is the airbag subject to interference?

Dainese claims it’s not, employing a continuous radio signal connection between the wearable unit and ECU to eliminate the potential for interference. With no existing certification processes in place, Dainese actually worked with Germany’s super-strict TUV certification program to develop a set of standards for wearable airbags. Over 800 tests will look at the following areas:
- General safety
- Ergonomics
- Radio and telecommunication
- Algorithm/software
- Functional safety
- Chemical harmlessness
- Quality management

D-Air Street passes those tests.

Can D-Air inadvertently hurt me or my passenger?

Dainese has tested the system in a variety of circumstances that could hamper inflation or cause injury. Wearing a backpack? D-Air will still inflate. When it does inflate, it won’t impact your helmet in such a way that could cause whiplash. A pillion sitting close to you? The bag won’t throw off their grip or unseat them or cause injury if it impacts them during inflation. Sitting flush to a top box or other luggage? The bag won’t throw you off.

How do I install and operate D-Air?

Dainese will handle installation at their D-Stores, the only places D-Air will be available. Once installed, you need to handle battery charging and installing a SIM card. The battery in the jacket or vest lasts 30 hours and recharges via USB. Simple. The SIM cards handle communication between the ECU and the rider and passenger. The garments then “mate” with the ECU so yours doesn’t accidentally inflate that of another so-equipped rider near you. That cockpit unit displays battery charge levels, system activation and warns you if something’s screwy. The airbag unit itself can also vibrate if it needs to tell you something.

What can I wear D-Air Street with?

Initially, there’s going to be a Gore-Tex jacket and a vest available (no US prices or availability dates yet). That jacket is turn-key, incorporating a back protector and all the usual armor. The vest gets worn over existing jackets or leathers; you can still wear traditional static back and chest protectors and other armor underneath it.

The takeaway.

D-Air Street isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s going to be expensive and it is going to require installation on your motorcycle/s. You will need to recharge batteries and generally be responsible for putting it on and taking care of it. But, for those riders who use motorcycles as their primary means of transportation and take safety incredibly seriously as a result, this is going to make them massively safer. Once installed, operation requires virtually no user input and the area of coverage and level of impact amelioration are both huge. 75 percent safer than the safest existing back protectors? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know that I’m not going to break my back or destroy my heart/lungs in a crash and I’m prepared to pay for that added safety.

  • Dylan

    Any idea on when we are going to get pricing? As a daily commuter on a bike this seems amazing.

  • Gene

    I guess if I can charge & care for my helmetcam every day, I can do this… but it’s going to be HOT in the Florida summer :-(

    Big thumbs up to Dainese for putting this out there.

  • DavidMG

    75% & 89%!?!?

    Where do I sign?

  • Van Doan

    It would be great to see Stew crash test this and give a blow by blow to throw up against his crash report.

  • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

    I’ve been really excited about this technology, since I first saw prototypes in ~ 2006. This has seriously awesome potential!

  • 10/10ths

    I’m all for this, but man, that’s gonna be tough to wear in the summer.

  • smoke4ndmears

    Cant wait for the HFL practical application article!

  • Campisi

    Sounds like something an enterprising dealer could install as an optional upgrade for new bike sales.

    • Ben

      Yeah, what about getting it to work on my Battery-less SR500 or carbed Ducati?

      • Campisi

        From my reading of the article (which admittedly isn’t clear on this point) the system is self-contained, requiring no electrical connection with the bike. If so, then none of that matters as long as everything is physically mounted to the bike and the battery in the vest is charged.

        • aristurtle

          Those accelerometers and tilt sensors are going to need electricity to work, too, and they’re not getting it from the vest.

  • Sam

    I’m not sure how this is much better than the Safer Moto stuff; however, I’m glad to see more R&D money going into this sort of stuff.

  • Devin

    Airbags were once an oddity in cars, I think this will be largely the same, as innovation and scale drives the prices down to reasonable levels more people will be able to get in it.

    If for nothing else, maybe HFL staff will get comped with a suit so there isn’t six months of recovery every 4 bike tests :P

  • Johndo

    Very interesting…but isnt that battery and air cartridges right on the tail bone??

  • Paul

    is this incompatible with the leatt system, or redundant?

  • nick2ny

    If I were afraid to ride a motorcycle, I’d drive a car!

    ;)

    • BMW11GS

      Haha I don’t know who posted the story about this the first time, but I still get a laugh about that guy. I guess ignorance is still bliss?

      • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

        What story? Sounds amusing… linkage please??

  • Justin

    if i drop my bike in the garage is it going to trigger the air bags?

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      It won’t, the system can see the difference between a low speed lowside, a bike being droped at 0mph and also someone hitting you from behind.

      But why do they insist on calling it the first wireless system? Bering has been selling a similar system for 2 years now. The sensors are even at the same places.

      • BMW11GS

        Hmm that is one interesting looking product. That demonstration shot is pretty impressive.

  • http://lightsoutknivesout.tumblr.com/ Scott Pargett

    Just had a vision of some rider from the 60′s peering into the future and seeing this sort of stuff.

    • http://lightsoutknivesout.tumblr.com/ Scott Pargett

      And wait till they see the bikes we have too!

  • gsx750f

    I’m waiting for this for a long time. I will get the vest as soon as it’s available in Germany. I read somewhere that it should be available at the end of may.
    I’m really looking forward to just throwing the vest over whatever I’m wearing, and feeling about 50x safer than ever before.
    I’m just wondering if the street system will be usable on track as well.

  • Scott-jay

    Why can’t its air bags have waffle openings for ventilation?
    I buy cheap (by HFL stds) helmets, but would pay hard money for a vest like this that’s wearable in hot-humid climate.

  • oldblue

    Finally, Dainese brings us the Mae West.

    Hope it floats…this could be a double-duty innovation.

  • HammSammich

    I really hope there’s a market for these, because I’d like to see it succeed and eventually purchase one myself. That having been said, given the components that need to be installed on the bike, I think success will ultimately be up to bike makers, because I don’t see this becoming a very popular option until it is offered as a turnkey system from the factory.

    Fortunately, that should’nt be too far off, since it is very common for manufacturers to license gear with their own branding, ie. Triumph & Alpinestars. Indeed, I suspect that most modern bikes already have many of the components necessary to control an airbag system (with the exception of the crash sensors and wireless link between garment and bike).

    The only other problem I can imagine with these becoming popular in the US, is that a large portion of the motorcycling community, and some of the largest manufacturers seem committed to promoting gear that provides substandard protection (or even promoting no gear at all).

    Finally, I was trying to think of how to do away with the need for charging the jacket. Maybe someone with more engineering/scientific knowledge could clarify for me: Would creating an induction field around the bike to power/charge the jacket be too dangerous/difficult?

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Well that looks pretty neat! So a system like this would mean you wouldn’t be wearing a back protector? Or maybe just one in the jacket for extra abrasion protection?

    I just hope that people don’t become more careless with better safety gear like this. An ounce of prevention is better than a Dainese D-Air Street…