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Brands team up for cyclist safety

Photos: Supplied.

Leaders in automotive safety, Volvo Cars, are teaming up with top Swedish sports and safety brand POC for a series of world-first crash tests of bike helmets against cars as part of a ground breaking new research project that aims to further protect cyclists.

Volvo’s New Zealand general manager Coby Duggan says the research is significant as it focuses on the head injuries that can be potentially caused by an impact to various parts of the front of a vehicle.

Coby says the latest Ministry of Transport statistics found that more than 770 cyclists were injured in New Zealand last year, with five being fatal, making up around 5% of road accident injuries and 1% of all road fatalities.

“Cyclists are one of the most vulnerable road user groups and yet the traditional methodology for measuring how well a helmet stands up to an impact is to simply drop it from various heights on to a flat surface.

“The new study will explore how head protection responds under a variety of collision scenarios as it impacts with different parts of a moving vehicle,” he says.

Coby says the results of the research will lead to the design of helmets and vehicles to protect cyclists in the event of an accident.

New Zealand research suggests that if the number of individuals in New Zealand who cycle increases, the risk profile of cyclists may improve due to a safety in numbers effect. It is also likely that if cyclist numbers increase, demand for cycle-friendly road infrastructure will increase as a result.

The partnership is the latest example of Volvo’s leading position in safety development and its ambition to improve road safety for all through a collaboration and knowledge sharing approach.

Accidents between bikes and vehicles can often lead to serious injury or death, which is why Volvo has a clear strategy to avoid these types of accidents completely with the help of active safety technologies.

Cyclist detection with full auto brake uses the car’s cameras and radars to detect cyclists, warn the driver of an imminent collision and apply the brakes if further action is needed. It is a development of Volvo’s automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection systems, in line with its safety vision.

The Volvo-POC research project consists of a number of specially designed crash tests at the famous Volvo safety research facilities in Gothenburg, Sweden and is part of a wider research project to understand the types of long-term injuries sustained by cyclists.

During these tests, POC bike helmets are worn by crash dummy heads mounted on a testing rig, where they are launched towards different areas of the hood of a static Volvo car, at different speeds and angles for various measurements.

The tests are based on existing regulatory test procedures for pedestrian head protection. This allows Volvo and POC to make a direct comparison between wearing a helmet and not wearing a helmet.

Current bike helmet testing procedures are fairly rudimentary, involving helmets being dropped from different heights on either a flat or an angled surface, and do not take into account vehicle to bike accidents. The Volvo-POC project aims to further refine and advance such testing.

The learnings from the research project will help POC make their helmets safer and more protective in the event of a car-bike accident, while the tests will also provide valuable insights and learnings for Volvo into these types of accidents for future development.

Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Safety Centre and one of the company’s leading safety engineers says this project with POC is a good example of Volvo’s pioneering spirit in safety.

“We often develop new testing methods for challenging traffic scenarios. Our aim is not only to meet legal requirements or pass rating tests. Instead we go beyond ratings, using real traffic situations to develop technology that further improves safety.”

With over 60 international awards for safety, innovation and design, POC has built a reputation for challenging conventional wisdom and looking at new research, science and innovation to bring forward new ways of thinking to reduce accidents.

Oscar Huss, head of product development at POC says much like Volvo, safety is at the very centre of POC’s mission and drives all their ideas and innovations.

“By working closely with scientific leaders in the POC Lab, we strive to lead the way in introducing new safety ideas. Certification standards are essential, but they should never limit our willingness to look beyond their parameters to find better and more innovative ways to reduce the consequences of accidents.”

In recent years, Volvo has focused on protecting people outside its cars. For example, Volvo launched its pedestrian detection with full autobrake in 2010 and cyclist detection with full auto brake in 2013.

Both technologies come as standard in all Volvo cars as part of the City Safety package and have helped to improve overall traffic safety.

In an earlier collaboration, Volvo and POC worked on a pilot to connect bike helmets with cars in order to help avoid accidents.

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