Hövding started out as an industrial design master thesis at Lund University in spring 2005. Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin had decided to work on their exam project together at precisely the time Sweden's law on bicycle helmets for children under 15 came in. The Swedish Road Administration wanted the law to also apply to adult bicyclists, but many adults saw making helmets compulsory as a threat rather than a positive initiative. Anna and Terese saw their master thesis in industrial design as the perfect place to find out whether it was possible to improve on the bicycle helmet. They wanted to make a helmet so attractive that adult cyclists would voluntarily start protecting their heads on the roads without the law ordering them to do so or else.
As the project progressed, the initial idea for an airbag bicycle helmet was developed into a concept, which won an ideas grant from Innovationsbron, a Swedish initiative set up to turn research and innovation into commercial products. This was the first step along the road to making Hövding a real product.
In 2006 Hövding won the Venture Cup and just over 200,000 Swedish kronor. And with that the company Hövding Sverige AB was born.
Along the way, the Hövding team has gradually grown. There are now 16 of us working at Hövding, each of us bringing in our own unique specialist expertise.
2007 saw the start of the demanding job of developing a method for distinguishing normal bicycling from accidents. Hundreds of bicycling accidents were recreated, with the aim of studying the specific movement patterns of bicyclists in accidents to determine precisely when the sensors should deploy the airbag. The accidents were re-enacted with stunt riders from the Swedish Stunt Group and with crash test dummies at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, VTI.
With the backing of Ulf Björnstig, professor and surgeon at Umeå University Hospital and a specialist in skull injuries in bicyclists, we built up a database of all the bicycling accidents that take place. Every type of accident has been staged to ensure that this database is comprehensive and accurately represents what actually happens.
As well as studying accidents, hundreds of hours of normal bicycling have also been incorporated in our database thanks to test bicyclists wearing Hövding in everyday bicycling situations. Besides the actual bicycling, the concept of "normal bicycling" also includes all the situations and movements that normally take place before and after a bicycle ride, such as running up and down steps, picking up dropped keys, etc.See also How Hövding works – Sensors.
Development work on the unique airbag was primarily carried out in Portugal, in collaboration with Swedish airbag manufacturer Alva Sweden. Extensive testing has been carried out at Alva to ensure the airbag provides the protection required. The tests checked the performance of the airbag at different air pressures and temperatures, for different head shapes and sizes and for cyclists with a range of different hairstyles and headgear.
During the development process, the airbags have also been tested by the IAC Group in Tidaholm and by SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås. This work involves tests to ensure that the airbag inflates around the wearer's head, and tests to optimise the shock absorption provided by Hövding.
The airbag and its function are unique to Hövding and are therefore patented.See also How Hövding works – Airbag.
Hövding is a unique, groundbreaking product in many respects. The development of Hövding has resulted in a number of patents and patents pending.