Both Dainese and arch-rival Alpinestars have spent the past decade developing real-life, airbag-equipped superhero suits and now they're ready for public consumption (even though no dates have been given on purchase availability). Alpinestars spilled the beans on TechAir back in August and, this week, Dainese did the same with this new D-Air suit, finally ready for public consumption. The safety arms race is on.
When D-Air thinks you're crashing, it can react in less than 15 milliseconds, intelligently pick an ideal deployment time and inflate its airbag with 4 liters of gas inside of 80 milliseconds. It also collects comprehensive telemetry data using 2D software, three accelerometers, three gyroscopes and GPS, stores it with 2 gigs of onboard memory and spits it out overlaid on a Google Earth map. Price? $4,000 off-the-rack or $5,000 with your graphics, colors and sponsor logos. Yes, that's $5,000 for the same suit Rossi wears. But wait, there's more: Dainese also offers a maintenance contract for $220 that includes free shipping and cleaning and 15% off repairs.
Only Alpinestars and Dainese have fully developed airbag racing suits and like 5-year old playground rivals, neither one will even so much as acknowledge the other. The Tech Air fully inflates its airbags with 2.8 liters of nitrogen based gas in 45ms. If you crash again in the same session, a second charge can inflate the bags again. US pricing has yet to be released for TechAir, but in Europe, it goes for €6000 (or $7891). What does all this boil down to? The Alpinestars version is faster, but Dainese is cheaper and more customizable. TechAir inflates faster, and if you manage multiple high-sides, you'll be protected both times. D-Air takes ever-so-slightly longer to inflate, but has 4 liters of air to the Tech Air's 2.8 liters (which should provide more coverage and greater cushioning), comes with state-of-the-art telemetry and costs roughly half as much. Ouch.
Why it matters
Technology developed in racing eventually trickles down to the consumer. The best example is the used sportsbike. For less than $4,000, you can now buy a machine that will do a 1/4 mile inside of 10 seconds, exceed 160mph, lean further than 50º, and run perfectly for years (despite constant abuse). If you took your $4,000 sportsbike and a new set of sticky street rubber 25 years back in time, no GP bike on the planet would be able to beat it.
Safety gear has made some pretty significant advances in recent years too. With MotoGP level airbag suits starting to become available to consumers, it's only a matter of time before prices drop and this tech becomes commonplace. Dainese and A-Stars can squabble all they want over who was first with the technology. All we want to know is when we can buy one.