Innovation: airbag for cyclists

From the Harvard Gazette

Ethan Seder, S.B. ‘22, mechanical engineering

What did you do for your project?

For my thesis, I built an airbag for commuter cyclists that deploys from a backpack in the event of an accident. The device contains three subsystems: electronics and an algorithm used for accident detection, a mechanical gas release mechanism to inflate the airbag, and an expandable textile airbag deployed to protect the upper torso of the user. During testing, the device was able to reduce impact force by 94%.

Where’d your project idea come from?

During my gap year from school in 2020-2021, I got into a bike accident and realized how shocking it is that the only safety solution available to cyclists is the helmet. The helmet has limited energy absorption and leaves the upper body of the cyclist unprotected. The goal of my thesis was to build an elegant solution that protects the upper torso of cyclists, while integrating into a backpack that is already carried by commuter cyclists.

What real-world challenge does this project address?

Every year there are roughly 1000 fatal bike accidents and 50,000 bike-related injuries in the U.S. alone. The lack of adequate safety equipment is to blame, and my project aims to solve this unmet need. My backpack, which retains its normal functions, is able to reduce the severity of injuries sustained by cyclists.

Ethan Seder’s airbag uses electronics and a mechanical gas release system to deploy within 200 milliseconds of an accident. (Credit: Ethan Seder)

— Read it

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