Besides continuing to produce its high-end protective body armor, Dainese has also spent the last several years developing something else – a wearable airbag system for motorcyclists. A couple of years ago, the Italian company announced that it had entered into a partnership with the International Ski Federation, to adapt that system for use by downhill ski racers. Now, Dainese has announced that it is fine-tuning the ski system, for use in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Known as D-Air, the motorcycle version of the technology takes the form of a vest-like garment that is worn over top of the biker’s other clothing. Using three integrated accelerometers and gyroscopes along with a GPS unit, an onboard microprocessor detects sudden movements. It then uses custom algorithms to decide if they indicate that a crash is taking place. If they are indeed deemed crash-like, an airbag is deployed to protect the rider’s neck, shoulder and collarbone. The whole process takes just 45 milliseconds.
One of the challenges in developing the system was to get it to differentiate between the types of sudden movements that would be involved in a crash, and other movements that are a normal part of riding – particularly in the case of racers. After all, having the airbag deploy when an accident wasn't taking place would likely cause one to occur.
The Dainese team faced a similar challenge in adapting the system for use in ski racing. In order to build a database of ski-related movements, they monitored 160 runs under differing conditions, as made by a variety of skiers. The result is a new algorithm that they believe should adequately protect against accidental deployments, while still triggering the bag in an actual crash.
“After studying the data collected from inertial platform sensors and from comparing this data with video images of the actual runs, it has become abundantly clear that the line between normal race behavior and a fall is, in many cases, very thin,” said engineer Alessandro Bellati. “Only very careful analysis of this data has allowed us to define the algorithm which we have now applied to the software of the platforms given to skiers.”
The airbag itself has been made larger in the chest but lightened in the back, as a back protector already provides coverage in that area. Additional improvements include a reduction on the overall weight of the system, and “new solutions” regarding gas generators and gas routing.
Skiing test subjects are now assessing the ergonomics of the system.