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Italian engineering and design firm patents intelligent motorcycle seatbelt system

Seatbelts have been universally accepted for cars for decades now and it’s hard to argue against their effectiveness in reducing injuries – but could the same idea work on two wheels?

The idea of being strapped to a tumbling motorcycle in an accident sounds like a nightmare, but Italian engineering and design firm Italdesign has patented an intelligent motorcycle seatbelt system that’s intended to operate only in certain types of accident, where remaining on the bike would be beneficial.

For a single-bike crash – for instance a low-side or high-side in a corner – it’s probably safest for the rider to separate from the motorcycle, but there are instances where the opposite is true. Most notably, it could be helpful to remain strapped to your bike in the sort of crash where a car pulls out in front of you, so instead of being catapulted over the car’s roof or straight into its side, you’d stay with the bike and allow it to absorb the impact.

Italdesign’s idea is to add a rigid, shell-like backrest to a motorcycle or scooter, with shoulder straps and a waist belt holding it into place on the rider. The backrest itself is mounted on a ball joint, allowing it to move – to a certain extent – with the rider. A quick-release mechanism, operated by an on-board computer using an array of sensors, is able to release the backrest instantly in the event of an accident where it would be safer to get away from the bike, but also to lock it into place when it’s safer to remain on the bike.

Italdesign’s illustrations show the system on a scooter-style bike, which makes more sense than a sports bike. A scooter’s low centre of gravity means it’s less likely to pitch forward in a car-vs-bike accident, making it potentially safer for the rider to be strapped into place, and scooter riders aren’t likely to move around in their seats like the riders of bigger bikes do. While most riders would find it uncomfortable and disconcerting to be strapped to their bike, scooter riders coming to two wheels from cars might well find belts to be less of an imposition, and even be reassured by the presence of belts.

Ben Purvis