Honda’s development of the air bag system for 2-wheeled vehicles

In September 2005, Honda Motor Co. Ltd (ホンダ) was the first to develop an air bag system for 2-wheeled vehicles to be included in mass production. The air bag reduces injury to the rider in the case of a front-end collision.

When a large-sized motorcycle equipped with this system collides with the side of a stopped 4-wheeled vehicle at speeds of 50 kilometer per hour, it takes about 0.015 seconds to analyze the collision by the air bags electronically controlled sensors, after first perceiving the impact through an acceleration sensor.  The expansion of the air bag is completed in about 0.06 seconds, which absorbs the forward kinetic energy of the rider in about 0.15 seconds – preventing the rider from being thrown forward.

Honda worked on reducing the injuries of riders by analyzing the data of those killed or injured in motorcycle traffic accidents. They discovered that 2-wheeled vehicles had a lot of front-end collisions in Japan, the United States and Europe. The most common injuries were caused by the impact from the other party’s vehicle and the road after the rider had been thrown from a 2-wheeled vehicle. They started developing ways to reduce those injuries effectively, identifying the airbag as one way to increase rider safety.

Honda started research in 1990 and began various forms of crash tests in 1996. Moreover, they made use of computer simulation technology and constructed a crash simulator that was able to accurately replicate a collision in order to evaluate rider’s injuries and verify the effect of different environmental conditions.

The dummies used for a 2-wheeled vehicle crash test are different from those used for 4-wheeled vehicle because the measurement data is recorded on a device inside the dummy. Therefore it doesn’t need a measurement cable that can influence the movement of the dummy. Another benefit is that it’s possible to evaluate the injuries sustained over the entire body, specifically the head, the cervix, the chest, the abdomen, and the leg.

It was difficult to adapt the air bag system for 2-wheeled vehicles because the environment is so different; there is neither a seat belt nor a cabin and the movement of the vehicle at the time of collision is hard to predict. It took approximately 20,000 hours in total to process over 400 simulated patterns using a computer and over 100 of  Honda’s large Goldenwing Motorcycle, each costing 3 million yen, were destroyed in collision testing. The idea was to perfect the technology to the point where it could be applied to minimize rider injury in all cases of motorcycle collisions. Development included everything down to the shape of the air bag that most efficiently absorbs a rider’s kinetic energy and therefore took over 15 years to complete.

With this advancement Honda continues to show its dedication to safety after also being the first Japanese car manufacturer to install air bags for passenger cars in 1987.