Motorcycle safety technology has clearly entered a new phase of development with airbag systems being pursued by a variety of apparel manufacturers. The latest company to enhance it’s riding suits with the technology is Alpinestars, purveyor of fine jackets, gloves, boots, etc. Alpinestars’ airbag system, dubbed the Tech Air Race, the system easily integrates into what the company calls the Electronic Airbag Protection Suit. The two components combined create a leather racing suit that can calculate in eight milliseconds whether a rider is crashing, and if so, deploy a pair of airbags that protects the rider’s body.
Alpinestars has five levels of computer algorithms and seven sensors that determine the various criteria that assure when a rider is crashing, and whether to deploy the airbag system. All these calculations take 8ms to run, and the system itself takes only 50ms to fully inflate the airbags once they’re triggered. The bags stay inflated for five seconds after the deployment, take 25 seconds to fully deflate, and can be ready to fire again in a minute’s time. This allows a fallen rider to remount their bike, and continue racing while still having airbag protection.
The Tech Air Race is designed to help protect the shoulder (collarbone) and neck of the rider, leaving the rider’s helmet and back protector to curtail injuries in those regions of the body. With the system easily expandable, it seems that Alpinestars could offer different protection zones with the Tech Air system in the future.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race isn’t quite ready for the mainstream consumer yet though, and Alpinestars plans to have a consumer-ready version (the Tech Air Street?) out by June 2011. Currently, Ben Spies, Mika Kallio and Dani Pedrosa are running the Tech Air Race system in MotoGP, and looking at the feature list, it’s clear this system is intended for the amateur/pro racer, which is readily apparent in the system’s $2500 price tag…suit not included.
At nearly $5,000 out the door, that’s a hefty price tag for the casual street rider, and track day enthusiast. However as the technology improves, and costs come down, we’re more than certain that vital pieces of safety equipment like the Tech Air Race system will become more readily available.