Innovation: Folding Helmet for Cyclists
Industrial designer Eduardo Hernandez was among the winners of the 2015 UANL Invention Awards after developing a folding helmet for cyclists based on the airbag system. His invention was motivated by the intention of improving cyclist safety without the disadvantages of a regular helmet.
For Eduardo Hernandez, a poor culture of respect and the lack of infrastructure and cyclist safety are the main problems impeding the bicycle to become an urban transportation option for the masses. However, only cyclist safety is approachable to Eduardo. As a result, he invented a folding helmet for cyclists called Testa, which earned him the 2015 UANL Invention Award in the category of Utility Model.
Besides being more affordable than the few other options on the market, his helmet is unconventionally composed. Designing a very uncommon helmet is a paradox for Eduardo, as he believes wearing a helmet would not be necessary if the infrastructure and traffic safety culture were similar to those existing in countries with high rates of bicycle use, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, where people do not wear helmets. In fact, Eduardo has traveled around these cities by bicycle.
The helmet is the topic of his undergraduate thesis, which is being developed with the assistance of Professor Rosa Iris Gutierrez. At the time the invention contest was launched, Eduardo was planning the presentation of his thesis. He says one of the main reasons for the Testa Project was the rate of accidents involving cyclists. According to INEGI statistics, 7,000 cyclists were injured in 2012; about 130 of them were killed.
“One would think this is a small number compared with the number of cyclists in the country, but for me such number is disturbing as it holds back the increase of cyclists in the city. It causes fear and insecurity.”
Furthermore, Eduardo emphasized other statistics showing numbers of 15,000 pedestrians injured, of which 7,000 were killed.
“Car accidents involving public transportation or motorcyclists. This is a real problem,” expressed the designer.
An approximate manufacturing cost of Testa would range between $1,700 and $2,000 pesos. It is lower than the costs of similar helmets on the market, whose prices range around 400 euros.
“Those helmets cost almost $8,000 pesos to be used only once. That was the starting point to design something affordable with similar functions. The solution was to propose an inexpensive plastic mechanism that could reduce impact forces.”
The helmet is composed of two plastic headbands attached to a flexible rubber membrane. During an accident or collision, the sudden movements of the user activate the mechanism, extending the compressed membrane into the shape of a helmet. It works similarly to the airbag system, which uses two sensors, an accelerometer and a gyroscope, to monitor the surroundings at any time.
“I wish this project could transcend my thesis, I see potential. After the materials testing, the usability testing would be performed. By making the necessary improvements, the product can be presented to a company or government institution,” concluded Eduardo.
By Luis Salazar