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Stylish cyclist collar hides airbag inside

Swedish designers have come up with the Chieftan, a collar disguising a protective airbag for bikers that activates upon impact.

Chieftan airbag
After inflation: Well, looking a bit like an alien is a small price to pay to keep your head intact. Hövding

Riding along on your bike, it looks like you're sporting a stylish scarf-ey thing. But if an accident happens (heaven forbid, bite your tongue), that same scarf-ey thing fully inflates into a head- and neck-protecting airbag within 0.1 second.

Meet the "Hövding," or Chieftan, a collar-disguised airbag hood for bikers developed by two Swedish industrial design students. It's being shown off this week at the Scandinavian Technical Fair Stockholm and could be available in Europe by spring of next year.

Chieftan airbag
Before inflation, the collar's kind of stylin'. Hövding

When inventors Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin asked cyclists on the street why they didn't wear helmets, they got an earful about bulkiness, ugliness, and "helmet hair," among other gripes. The waterproof, washable shell of the Chieftan comes in various styles that can be swapped out to match your outfit du jour.

But there's no fashion without function here: the durable nylon fabric can withstand scrapes on the asphalt, the designers say.

The pair invested six years and thousands of test crashes in developing the battery-run Chieftan, which contains a release mechanism, controlled by motion sensors, that activates the airbag upon impact. A small gas generator inside the back of the zippered collar fills the airbag with helium gas to turn it into a protective cushion. And a black box inside will save 10 seconds of data from the cyclist's motion in (and just before) a bike accident.

Now all the Chieftan needs is a camera attachment so you can prove to your insurance agent that the jerk actually did cut you off.