Tali connected helmet may light the way to the future of motorcycle safety
Beyond trick LED lighting, this smart helmet integrates a myriad of features including fall detection, Alexa and Siri.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
We've seen numerous smart, connected motorcycle helmet concepts in recent years. While many have debuted with a splash, most have landed with a thud when it came time to make an impact on the market. On display at CES 2020, this helmet from a French startup called Tali Connected is hoping to buck the trend by delivering a compelling suite of advanced safety and convenience features in an attractive package.
Among other features, the Tali helmet is ringed by color-changing LEDs for improved visibility, with functions including a rear-mounted brake light and turn signals. Paired via Bluetooth with your smart phone, the Tali can not only play music, take phone calls or read off navigation instructions, it can automatically place a call to emergency services when a fall or accident is detected.
Tali smart motorcycle helmet could be the brain bucket of the future
By leveraging the smartphone with a proprietary app that's currently in development for both Android and Apple iOS, this brain bucket will also be able to share real-time location as well as offer a geofence-based alert if the helmet has been stolen. The app will also integrate things like maintenance and service logs, trip tracking and so on.
To improve rider visibility, the Tali helmet also includes a photochromic visor, and it's also compatible with smart voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to reduce distraction.
This all sounds simultaneously cool and useful. In person at CES, the Tali helmet looks very promising, and while far from cheap, even the projected retail price of around $1,200 doesn't sound outrageous (some premium "dumb" motorbike helmets cost over $1,000 without any of this model's connected or lighting features).
Of course, Tali Connected has a difficult road ahead before you'll be able to purchase one of its helmets for yourself and go riding. This is the startup's first product. It's been in development for over three years, but there's still more work ahead. At CES, the company is displaying its Minimum Viable Product (MPV). Company CEO and founder, Issam Tali, tells Roadshow "the final functional prototype will be available at the end of March for testing in real conditions."
Beyond that, development work is still continuing on the app (Tali expects it to be completed in May or June) and most critically, there's the mission-critical question of safety validation and certification before the helmet can go on sale. Issam Tali confirms his company will be seeking DOT compliance for the helmet, but any further certifications that from the Snell Foundation remains unclear.
In order to secure the funds to bring the helmet to market, France-based Tali will launch an international crowdfunding effort. Issam Tali says the campaign is coming shortly, "with the aim of launching our helmet on the market at the end of the year, or even early 2021." (Tali says he hopes the US availability in particular will come before the end of the year).
Similar smart helmets, like the AR-1 from Skully Helmets, Inc., have attempted this road before. Skully's initial effort managed to raise some $2.5 million in crowdfunding beginning in 2014, plus $11 million in venture capital, yet it only managed to deliver a small number of helmets before going belly up. The assets of that effort were sold and later reborn under the Skully Technologies nameplate, but its efforts -- as well as those of other smart-helmet startups -- have yet to have a significant impact on today's motorcycle helmet market.
Despite some false starts, the promise of intelligent and multifunctional connected helmets seems obvious. Will Tali finally be the company to deliver on that potential at scale? It's far too soon to tell, but the company is off to an auspicious start, having been named a CES 2020 Innovation Award honoree.