Italdesign Wants To Increase Motorcycle Safety By Using Smart Seatbelts

Illustration for article titled Italdesign Wants To Increase Motorcycle Safety By Using Smart Seatbelts
Graphic: Italdesign-Giugiaro

Italdesign thinks it has found the solution for the danger inherent in motorcycle riding, and it’s been hiding in plain sight since the late 1950's: the seatbelt.

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The Italian design firm has filed a patent application for a motorcycle seatbelt assembly that includes a backrest, a five-point harness and, most importantly, a quick-release mechanism that detaches the whole damn thing from the bike, according to a report from Cycle World.

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Illustration: Italdesign-Giugiaro

The assembly, including the seat back, seatbelt and ejector is connected to a computer that makes use of onboard sensors to determine whether a rider is safer staying attached to the bike in the event of an accident, or if it’s safer to eject the rider, as Cycle World explains:

The system is based around a rigid, shell-like backrest, rather like an oversized back protector, that you strap into via a belt across each shoulder and another over your waist. However, the backrest isn’t permanently, solidly mounted to the bike; instead, it attaches via a flexible joint, allowing some movement of the rider, and there’s a quick-release system that allows the whole shell to be uncoupled from the bike instantly when necessary.

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The idea is that the bike’s onboard computer uses sensors to work out if it’s in an accident, and what sort of accident it is, before deciding whether to release the backrest or to hold it—and the strapped-in rider—in place. Overcook it in a corner and low-side the bike, and the seat back will release so you can separate from the machine. However, if a car pulls across the road so you go into the side of it, the system recognizes that it’s safer to keep you strapped in so you aren’t flung into the car or over the top of it.

Italdesign’s patent application hasn’t yielded a concept vehicle, it’s only the patent for now, but the idea that a seatbelt belongs on a two-wheeler has been tried before. BMW Motorrad produced an incredibly cool scooter for a couple of years around the turn of the Millennium. The BMW C1 was a two-wheeler complete with a canopy that was positioned by BMW as the perfect city vehicle.

As if a roof on a scooter wasn’t striking enough, the C1 also had a seatbelt for its pilot. In fact, that seatbelt looks a lot like the concept Italdesign wants to patent. The C1 belt secured the rider “...via a belt across each shoulder and another over your waist,” just like the Italdesign belt according to Cycle World.

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The novelty of the Italdesign assembly, however, revolves around the pivot and detachment point.

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Illustration: Italdesign-Giugiaro
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Unlike the C1's seatbelt, the Italdesign has that eject mechanism. I’m not sure that the kind of tech required for this was around when the C1 came out, but as tech matures and with the advent of things like accelerometers, it makes sense that someone could apply this to what is essentially an ejector seat for bikers.

I’m still skeptical, though. I worry that the computer-controlled mechanism would fail and would tether me to the motorcycle and take me with it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be strapped to a 300-600 pound (or more) motorcycle in a crash.

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The C1 illustrates the dangers inherent in the Italdesign’s patent. There is even footage of what being attached to a BMW C1 would be like in the event of a crash or tip-over. It doesn’t look very comfortable:

I think I’d be more inclined to be all in for something like this if Italdesign could attach an airbag system to it. Imagine an airbag deploying in the event of any accident, using the seat back as a base. When the rider crashed, the airbag would deploy and provide a crucial layer of crash protection. Now that I’d be down for!

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Illustration: Italdesign-Giugiaro

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.

DISCUSSION

yeardley68
hoser68

I think it should be a real ejection seat. Run into something and it launches you off the bike to parachute to safety.

Maybe not a good idea if you lay the bike down. Memories of trying to launch a model rocket and it toppling over to shoot across a busy road comes to mind.