The improved Hövding 3 is a wearable airbag that deploys to protect bicyclists' heads—but could work for scooter riders, too.
Anxious to jump on the shareable e-scooter craze, but less psyched about all those news stories highlighting the likelihood that you’ll suffer debilitating brain injuries during a ride? A helmet is the obvious solution, but who carries one of those around 24/7? Luckily, there is hope for Bird and Lime and other e-scooter riders who don’t want to choose between skull safety and fashion: Hövding.
What the what? Hövding is a Swedish company with a novel helmet alternative that every scooter rider should consider. Founded in 2006 by design students Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, Hövding hoped to encourage bicycle-riding Swedish teenagers to heed a then-new compulsory helmet law by skipping helmets altogether. Its solution? A helmet that deployed like an airbag around a user’s head during an accident, but that left hairdos untouched the rest of the time. The first version went on sale in 2011, and now the world’s first brain airbag has just been updated with a few new features and rechristened “Hövding 3.”
The device is exactly what it sounds like: An airbag, like the ones in your car, that rapidly inflates in the event of an impact to encircle the user’s head like a helmet. The cushion deploys from a neck-pillow-shaped horse collar worn around one’s shoulders. As did previous models, the Hövding 3 looks more like a fanny pack for your neck than an ultra sophisticated, cold-triggered helium-filled cushion for your head that can inflate in as little as 0.1 second upon detecting you’re about to have a close encounter with some asphalt. Worried that the Hövding 3 won’t be able to react in quickly enough to save your bacon during an ill-advised scooter flex? The device monitors the user’s movements 200 times per second, and it can determine the difference between a crash and other common bicycling motions. During the 3’s development, in fact, badass Swedish stunt people simulated a whopping 3,000 different accidents. Hövding claims that its airbag not only reduces your chance of concussion by eight times, but that it also virtually eliminates any risk of a skull fracture. The deployed airbag also gives your noggin a stylish human/cobra hybrid appearance, which is indisputably cooler than any helmet.
The new model is battery-powered and offers 15 hours of protection on a single charge (via USB!). There is an accompanying app to keep users apprised of the 3’s battery status, too, and it can even be set up to alert emergency services in case of a deployment. In short, the Hövding 3 seems like an easy device to add into one’s daily charging routine for smartphones and smartwatches.
With distracted drivers and potholes alike posing omnipresent threats to scooter riders’ safety, the newest Hövding’s timing seems perfect for our collective scooter moment. After all, how many Bird or Lime scooter riders have you seen ever wear a helmet? Now cross-reference that with the alarming rates of head injuries among rentable scooter riders. Exactly.
Before you consider this the secret solution to our e-scooter problems, we must address a few caveats. First off, the Hövding 3 was designed primarily to serve bicyclists, so surely some calibration would be needed to optimize its use by motorized scooter riders. Also, more problematically, Hövding doesn’t officially sell its helmet in North America. And at €299 (about $330 USD!), the unit’s price tag is steep, although Hövding charges about a third of that price for a replacement should a user’s original actually deploy in an accident. We say so what. If the Hövding 3’s price or puffy strap-on turtleneck look aren’t for everyone, well, neither is a coma. While we await the airbag helmet’s uncertain future in America, watch the 3 in action in one of Hövding’s many amusing demos below: