Honda Motor on Thursday took the wraps off its first airbag designed to protect motorcyclists in the event of a crash.
The airbag will come standard on its new Gold Wing motorcycle, which is scheduled for release in late spring of 2006 in the U.S., and eventually in Europe and Japan.
The airbag module sits between the handlebars and inflates if the four sensors that monitor the bike detect a front-end crash. Honda has been working on the design as part of its Advanced Safety Vehicle (ASV) project since 1990. The company said the airbag could drastically reduce head injuries.
During a press conference in Tokyo, Honda executives said their airbag works best in a straight-angle frontal collision up to 31 mph.
The company said it plans to offer the airbag on more motorcycles in the future, but started with the Gold Wing because of design restrictions on other models.
For example, the motorcycle needs to be heavy enough so the driver does not get thrown off the bike and over the airbag. The airbag would not fit on Honda's more sporty models, which require riders to lean forward over the handlebars.
Honda did not say how much the airbag would add to the cost of the motorcycle. The current edition 1800cc Gold Wing is Honda's largest motorcycle and starts at $18,600. The company said it sold 12,000 units in North America last year, 1,600 in Europe and 270 in Japan.