What are smart motorcycle crash helmets?

Thanks to developments in technology, production motorcycles are becoming more and more sophisticated, especially in terms of electronic rider aids which is allowing riders to go fast while comfortably keeping the bike rubber side down.

Over the past decade, motorcycle technology has evolved at a far greater pace than rider protection has. The brand new Ducati Panigale V4, which launched in January, is a prime example of how advanced standard bikes have become. The V4 sports slide control, Bosch cornering ABS, an up/down quickshifter, launch-control, and updated wheelie control, prompting the world’s motorcycle press to praise the bike for how hard it is to actually fall off.

Advancements in the understanding of how new tech can be used in different ways has seen a wave of developments in rider protection. So when you’re not testing the latest Ducati superbike at Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo, a new type of crash helmet might just help you stay on two wheels, and transform your road-riding experience. Dubbed as ‘smart’ crash helmets, there are a few start-up companies breaking the mould of traditional crash helmet design and functionality, all with the aim of making us safer.

Skully Technologies, recently taken over by GasGas CEO Ivan Contreras, has created the Skully Fenix AR crash helmet. The helmet re-launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January after originally launching in 2013, and comes complete with a host of tech designed to keep riders’ eyes on the road ahead as much as possible.

The Skully Fenix AR has a small transparent display, called Head Up Display (HUD), under the right eye which can show turn-by-turn GPS and how fast you’re going, without requiring you to look away from where you’re heading. It also includes a 180º blind spot camera also visible through the HUD, and voice control for hands free calling and streaming music, should you want to. The Fenix AR is powered by your smartphone and built in battery which lasts up to four hours, and rechargeable by USB. So using a portable charger on the go is possible for longer rides.

There’s no word as to when it will hit the shelves in the UK, but it’s expected to go on sale in the USA this summer for around $1,899 (approximately £1,370) for the regular version, with a full carbon edition also in the pipeline.

If you haven’t got north of a grand to spend on a new high-tech helmet, or just not in the market for a new lid anytime soon, for less than half the price, at £615, you can buy the NUVIZ device, which fits on to most full-face crash helmets. Like the Skully Fenix AR, the NUVIZ uses HUD to display navigation and a speedometer, and supports hands free communication and music streaming, with a battery life of eight hours. The compact device also supports HD photo and video capture, all of which is controlled on a wireless remote mounted to your motorcycle’s handlebars.

The NUVIZ is currently the only motorcycle crash helmet device available offering such functionality. And the firm doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, after announcing a partnership with German crash helmet manufacturer SCHUBERTH at EICMA in November, offering an individual mount created specifically for the C4 and R2 helmets.

The idea of smart crash helmets seems to be catching on, and 2018 might see a new player on the block if the success of its Kickstarter campaign is anything to go by. The CrossHelmet X1 – developed by Tokyo-based firm Borderless, including an engineer who worked on the Yamaha MT-09 – has received over $340,000 in investment, and is set to begin shipping its first orders in October this year.

The futuristic CrossHelmet X1 is controlled through touch gestures, and includes CrossSound Control, which decreases road noise to a safe level for riders, smartphone connectivity, as well as a rear view camera and Head Up Display. The company is accepting pre-orders on X1 in black or silver, both retailing at $1,599 (approximately £1,150).

So, as technology continues to be integrated into the motorcycles we ride, we can expect the rider protection we wear to be increasingly ‘smart’, aiming to make us safer on the roads and enhance the riding experience. Watch this space.

First published on Insidebikes.

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