It has been 15 years since the first production Honda motorcycle received an unusual option – an automobile-type airbag (built into the motorcycle, not wearable). Of course, this bike was a 2006 Honda Gold Wing, and the US market was the first to test this option.
Moto airbagi – the realities of today
To this day, the Honda Gold Wing remains the only production motorcycle that can be equipped with an airbag. While the technology may not be an instant success, Honda still supports the idea as the company recently filed patent applications for three new airbag designs that could one day become part of production bikes.
Honda’s arguments for airbags are clear. According to the company (from 2003, but nothing has fundamentally changed since then), about 68 percent of motorcycle accidents in which injuries were received occur in head-on collisions, and most of the injuries in them were caused by the motorcycle rider hitting car, road or other object. So having an air cushion between the rider and the obstacle can reduce injury quite seriously.
So why are airbags still only used on the Honda Gold Wing? Mostly due to design issues. In order to create an effective airbag, designers need to anticipate the direction of the rider’s body movement during an accident. Everything is simple in the car: the driver and passengers are fastened to the seats and do not really move anywhere. On a motorcycle, the rider hangs in turns, sits down vertically, bends down, leans from side to side – in a word, moves much more actively than in a car. This means that there is no certainty about where the rider will be located during the accident and in what position he will be. In a sense, the Gold Wing is an exception here: the landing on it is “static” – it is not designed to hang and move weight back and forth, simply because it is ineffective due to its own weight. This is why the designers easily designed an efficient air cushion for him.
However, there is a whole class of equipment, the landing on which is also quite static: scooters. Honda’s patent filings reveal exactly this direction. Most commonly used in cities, scooters are most often the victims of the classic accident scenario, where the car crosses the path of the scooter, forming an instantaneous obstacle and giving no chance of braking or dodging.
All three of Honda’s new designs are illustrated with a scooter very similar to the PCX, but since the patents are all about the airbags themselves, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be fitted to other bikes. All three new airbags are strikingly different in shape from the one installed on the Honda Gold Wing: unlike Golda’s simple round airbag, which fills the space between the rider and the steering wheel when triggered, the new airbags are more like a screen, similar to the side airbags that close the windows in modern cars. The idea seems to be to simply cover the maximum area with the pillow and smooth out any impact that may occur in that area, rather than trying to keep the rider in the saddle.
The difference between Honda’s patented airbags
The difference between patent applications lies in the location of the inflatable “screen”… In the first, the airbag is installed immediately behind the wheel in a U-shaped body.surrounding the dashboard and secured to its mountings. The essence of the patent is in this case.
In the second version, the airbag is installed even further away from the rider, behind the dashboard. – directly under the windshield of the scooter. The question of opening the airbag straight up (and not in the face of the rider) Honda decided to protect with a patent: when the airbag is triggered, the windshield folds forward.
The third patent concerns the location of the airbag directly on the handlebars. However, it is not a good idea to place a squib or pneumatic cartridge on the steering wheel that can explode, and the essence of the patent is that the activator device is located in a separate place (under the steering column in this case), and the gases inflating the cushion enter it through a hose … The explosion itself occurs far from the rider’s body.
All three patents look quite logical, but it remains to be seen whether they (or at least one of them) will be used in real motorcycles. But it is known for sure that the Honda design bureau is working on the implementation of motorcycle airbags, despite the fact that the process of their implementation is not going too quickly.