Local engineering student creates airbags for bicyclists to reduce injuries, save lives

Ethan Seder learned just how dangerous riding a bike can be when he was training for the Harvard rowing team during the height of COVID.

To keep him shape, he had started taking long bike rides.

“One day I got hit head on by a semi-truck and fractured two bones in my neck, broke my clavicle, and had nerve damage. After two surgeries, I’m still struggling to have good strength in my left arm,” Seder said.

Seder is finishing up his degree in mechanical engineering. Like most engineers when he sees a big problem, he thinks of ways to fix it.

And bicycle related accidents are a big problem. The Centers for Disease Control estimates nearly 1,000 bicyclists die every year. 130,000 are injured.

“My senior thesis for Harvard was to create an air bag for cyclists. I called it Crash Pack,” Seder explained.

The custom-made backpack contains airbags that deploy in 200 milliseconds and protect the upper body in the event of a bike accident.

The backpack is equipped with sensors which detect a change in the bike’s riding pattern.

The airbags are then triggered by an algorithm Seder created.

The bags inflate with carbon dioxide contained in small canisters.

Seder says a helmet is still a must, but that his invention provides a much wider range of needed protection.

“A helmet only protects their head, and they want something to protect their upper torso, which is the most commonly injured portion of the body during a cycling fall,” Seder said.

The backpack is comfortable to wear, according to Seder. “It adds about a pound and while competitive cyclists spend $1,000s of dollars trying to get those weights down. For commuter cyclists, you’re carrying your backpack with anyway and you have a laptop, and you have a water bottle.”

Seder’s next step after graduation is to find investors so he can get the product to market. He estimates the retail price will be about $399.

He believes the Crash Pack can make a significant difference in improving safety. “Every single day you hear about another person that gets in a bike accident, a car door swings open, someone hits the ground, and as a cyclist and a person that’s been in an accident, this product needs to exist in the world.”

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