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Title:
METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR AIRBAG DEPLOYMENT IN HELMETS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/013090
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Methods and apparatus for airbag deployment in helmets are disclosed. A disclosed method includes determining whether a vehicle is activated, and upon determining that the vehicle is activated, enabling an airbag of a helmet that is communicatively coupled with the vehicle to be deployed.

Inventors:
FARUQUE, Mohammed Omar (Research & Adv. Engineering, MD2115Dearborn, Michigan, 48121, US)
JARADI, Dean M. (RIC Bldg. 10, Dearborn, Michigan, 48121, US)
FAROOQ, S. M. Iskander (2101 Village Road, RICMD 212, Dearborn Michigan, 48121, US)
Application Number:
US2016/041908
Publication Date:
January 18, 2018
Filing Date:
July 12, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
FORD GLOBAL TECHNOLOGIES, LLC (330 Town Center Drive, Suite 800Dearborn, Michigan, 48126, US)
International Classes:
A42B3/04; A42B3/12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ALI, Syed Nazeer (Hanley, Flight & Zimmerman LLC,150 S. Wacker Drive,Suite 220, Chicago Illinois, 60606, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What Is Claimed Is:

1. A method comprising:

determining whether a vehicle is activated; and upon determining that the vehicle is activated, enabling an airbag of a helmet that is communicatively coupled with the vehicle to be deployed.

2. The method as defined in claim 1 , further including:

determining that the vehicle has traveled at a speed higher than a threshold speed, wherein the airbag is to be enabled to deploy based on the vehicle traveling at the speed higher than the threshold speed.

3. The method as defined in claim 2, further including:

determining that the vehicle is travelling at a speed higher than the threshold speed for a predetermined duration.

4. The method as defined in claim 1 , wherein enabling the airbag includes at least one of activating an inflator of the airbag or initializing an airbag controller to enable deployment of the airbag.

5. The method as defined in claim 1 , wherein the helmet further includes a secondary airbag that is deployed when the airbag is deployed.

6. The method as defined in claim 5, wherein the secondary airbag is to envelop a shoulder or a neck of a vehicle occupant wearing the helmet when the airbag and secondary airbag are deployed.

7. An apparatus comprising:

a wireless receiver of a helmet, the helmet having an airbag, the wireless receiver to receive a signal from a wireless transmitter of a vehicle, the signal to identify whether an engine of the vehicle is activated; and

a processor to determine whether to deploy the airbag based on the signal.

8. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, wherein the signal further includes speed information of the vehicle.

9. The apparatus as defined in claim 8, wherein the signal further includes a predetermined duration corresponding to the speed information.

10. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, further including a proximity sensor to determine a distance between the helmet and the vehicle.

11. The apparatus as defined in claim 10, wherein the signal further includes a presence of an occupant that is detected by the proximity sensor.

12. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, further including a weight sensor on the vehicle to determine a presence of an occupant.

13. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, further including a secondary airbag that is deployed with the airbag.

14. The apparatus as defined in claim 13, wherein the secondary airbag is to envelop a neck or a shoulder of a vehicle occupant wearing the helmet.

15. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, wherein the processor is disposed in the helmet.

16. The apparatus as defined in claim 7, wherein the processor is disposed in the vehicle.

17. A helmet comprising:

a wireless receiver operatively coupled to an airbag inflator, the wireless receiver to receive a signal from a wireless transmitter of a vehicle, the signal to identify whether an engine of the vehicle is activated; and

an annular groove to receive an airbag, the annular groove extending about a perimeter of the helmet.

18. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the airbag includes first and second compartments, the first compartment to deploy in an upward direction from the annular groove and the second compartment to deploy in a downward direction from the annular groove.

19. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the airbag includes a first airbag, and further including a second airbag to be received by the annular groove, wherein the first airbag is to deploy in an upward direction from the annular groove and the second airbag is to deploy in a downward direction from the annular groove.

20. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the signal is to further identify a speed or a speed reached within a time duration.

21. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the annular groove is above a visor of the helmet.

22. The helmet as defined in claim 17, further including a cover molding to encapsulate the airbag inflator and the airbag.

23. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the airbag inflator is a cold gas inflator.

24. The helmet as defined in claim 17, wherein the airbag inflator is disposed in the annular groove.

25. A tangible machine readable medium comprising instructions, which when executed, cause a processor to at least:

determine at least one of whether a vehicle is activated or a speed of the vehicle has exceeded a threshold speed; and

cause, based on the determination, an airbag of a helmet to be enabled for deployment.

26. The machine readable medium as defined in claim 25, further causing the processor to cause a signal to be transmitted wirelessly, the signal indicating that the airbag can be enabled for deployment.

27. The machine readable medium as defined in claim 25, further causing the processor to verify that an occupant of the vehicle is beyond a deployment distance prior to causing the airbag to be enabled for deployment.

28. The machine readable medium as defined in claim 27, further causing the processor to verify that the occupant of the vehicle is below a visual distance prior to causing the airbag to be enabled for deployment.

29. The machine readable medium as defined in claim 25, wherein the processor is disposed in the helmet.

30. A method comprising:

determining whether a vehicle has exceeded a speed threshold; and upon determining that the vehicle has exceeded the speed threshold, enabling an airbag of a helmet that is communicatively coupled with the vehicle to be deployed.

31. The method as defined in claim 30, further including:

determining that an engine of the vehicle is activated, wherein the airbag is to be enabled to deploy further based on the engine being activated.

32. The method as defined in claim 30, wherein enabling the airbag includes at least one of activating an inflator of the airbag or initializing an airbag controller to enable deployment of the airbag.

33. The method as defined in claim 30, wherein the helmet further includes a secondary airbag that is deployed when the airbag is deployed.

34. The method as defined in claim 33, wherein the secondary airbag is to envelop a shoulder or a neck of a vehicle occupant wearing the helmet when the airbag and secondary airbag are deployed.

Description:
METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR AIRBAG DEPLOYMENT IN HELMETS

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0001] This disclosure relates generally to airbags and, more particularly, to methods and apparatus to deploy airbags in helmets.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Helmets are typically worn by riders of vehicles such as motorcycles. Some known helmets for motorcycle riders include an airbag that deploys when a proximity sensor determines that a rider is no longer on the motorcycle. In some other known examples, an inertial sensor of a helmet triggers an airbag of the helmet when an impact is detected.

SUMMARY

[0003] An example method includes determining whether a vehicle is activated, and upon determining that the vehicle is activated, enabling an airbag of a helmet that is communicatively coupled with the vehicle to be deployed.

[0004] An example apparatus includes a wireless receiver of a helmet, where the helmet has an airbag, where the wireless receiver is to receive a signal from a wireless transmitter of a vehicle, and where the signal is to identify whether an engine of the vehicle is activated. The example apparatus also includes a processor to determine whether to deploy the airbag based on the signal. [0005] An example helmet includes a wireless receiver operatively coupled to an airbag inflator, where the wireless receiver is to receive a signal from a wireless transmitter of a vehicle, and where the signal is to identify whether an engine of the vehicle is activated. The example helmet also includes an annular groove to receive an airbag, where the annular groove extends about a perimeter of the helmet.

[0006] An example tangible readable medium includes instructions, which when executed, cause a processor to at least determine at least one of whether a vehicle is activated or a speed of the vehicle has exceeded a threshold speed, and cause, based on the determination, an airbag of a helmet to be enabled for deployment.

[0007] Another example method includes determining whether a vehicle has exceeded a speed threshold, and upon determining that the vehicle has exceeded the speed threshold, enabling an airbag of a helmet that is communicatively coupled with the vehicle to be deployed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an example airbag control system in accordance with the teachings of this disclosure.

[0009] FIGS. 2A and 2B represent un-deployed and deployed states, respectively, of an air bag of an example helmet in accordance with the teachings of this disclosure.

[0010] FIG. 3A illustrates the example helmet shown in FIGS. 2A and

2B. [0011] FIG. 3B illustrates the example helmet of FIGS. 2A-3A with the airbags removed.

[0012] FIG. 3C is a detailed cross-sectional view depicting a groove of the example helmet of FIGS. 2A-3B.

[0013] FIG. 4 A illustrates another example helmet.

[0014] FIG. 4B illustrates the example helmet of FIG. 4A with the airbag removed.

[0015] FIG. 4C is a detailed cross-sectional view depicting a groove of the example helmet of FIGS. 4 A and 4B.

[0016] FIG. 5 is a schematic overview of an example airbag deployment system to implement the examples disclosed herein.

[0017] FIG. 6 is a flowchart representative of an example method to implement the examples disclosed herein.

[0018] FIG. 7 is a flowchart representative of another example method to implement the examples disclosed herein.

[0019] FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an example processor platform capable of executing machine readable instructions to implement the example methods of FIGS. 6 and 7.

[0020] The figures are not to scale. Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout the drawing(s) and

accompanying written description to refer to the same or like parts. As used in this patent, stating that any part is in any way positioned on (e.g., positioned on, located on, disposed on, or formed on, etc.) another part, means that the referenced part is either in contact with the other part, or that the referenced part is above the other part with one or more intermediate part(s) located therebetween. Stating that any part is in contact with another part means that there is no intermediate part between the two parts.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0021] Methods and apparatus for airbag deployment in helmets are disclosed herein. Helmets are typically worn by riders of vehicles such as motorcycles. Some known helmets for motorcycle riders include an airbag that deploys when a proximity sensor determines a rider is no longer on the motorcycle. For example, the helmet may rely on wireless

communications such as Bluetooth to verify a proximity of the helmet to the motorcycle. In some other known examples, an inertial sensor of a helmet triggers an airbag of the helmet when an impact is detected. While these known systems employ sensors to detect whether the vehicle occupant has been removed from the vehicle, they do not generally trigger, enable and/or deploy a helmet airbag based on a speed of the vehicle or the vehicle being activated/turned on (e.g., a power state of the vehicle).

[0022] Further, known airbag helmets typically utilize a single airbag to envelop a head and/or neck. In some of these known examples, the airbag deploys from an exterior portion of a hard shell of a helmet or a shoulder, for example. As a result, these known helmets may have an obtrusive airbag and/or associated airbag component(s) extending from an exterior surface of the helmet. [0023] The examples disclosed herein control deployment of airbag(s) of a helmet based on a speed of a vehicle and/or whether the vehicle is turned on or activated (e.g., whether an engine of the vehicle is running, whether the vehicle, as a whole, is activated). In particular, the examples disclosed herein prevent accidental deployment of airbags (e.g., helmet airbags, garment airbags, etc.). For example, the airbag(s) of a helmet may be prevented from inflating unless a threshold speed of the vehicle has been met (or exceeded and/or the vehicle is activated). Additionally or alternatively, in some examples, a proximity sensor is used to determine whether the helmet is in close proximity to the vehicle (i.e., within a defined range) such that the airbag(s) are prevented from deploying until the helmet is beyond the defined range.

[0024] The example helmets disclosed herein utilize annular ring-like airbags that are mounted within an annular groove that surrounds and/or encompasses a periphery of a helmet. The groove of these disclosed examples enables a compact, space-saving storage of airbag(s) as well as efficient positioning of the airbag(s) for a later deployment. In some examples, multiple mounted airbags are employed to envelop a head and/or a neck of an occupant. In some examples, multiple compartments of a single airbag are used. In particular, some of the example airbags disclosed herein include a first portion that extends upward from the annular groove toward an upper portion of a helmet and a second portion that extends downward from the annular groove toward a lower portion of the helmet. As a result, the examples disclosed herein also allow more compact and lightweight helmets that do not require components such as interior foam and/or a thick hard plastic outer shell. Because the examples disclosed herein require less materials and/or weight, cooling is enhanced due to an increased amount of the resulting ventilation.

[0025] As used herein, the term "activate" and/or "turned on" can encompass any of a vehicle being turned on, an engine ignition being turned on (but not necessarily running), an electric motor on and not necessarily moving/turning, a vehicle moving or stationary, etc.

[0026] FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an example airbag control system 100 in accordance with the teachings of this disclosure. The system 100 of the illustrated example includes a vehicle (e.g., a motorcycle, scooter, a longboard, a race car, a speed boat, or other personal vehicle in which an occupant rider is not enclosed) 102, which includes a proximity sensor 104, a transceiver 106, an engine status sensor 108 and a speed sensor 110. The example system 100 also includes a deployable airbag helmet 120 with a transceiver (e.g., a wireless transceiver) 122 and an inflator controller 123. The example system 100 also includes an airbag controller (e.g., an inflator control module) 124, which is located in the vehicle 102 in this example and used to wirelessly control deployment of airbag(s) associated with the helmet 120.

[0027] To control whether an airbag of the helmet 120 is enabled and/or triggered to deploy, the airbag controller 124 of the illustrated example determines whether condition(s) for inflation have been met by communicating and/or receiving data from the vehicle 102 via communication between the transceivers 106, 122. In particular, data from the engine status sensor 108 of the illustrated example is used by the airbag controller 124 to cause the transceiver 106 to send a signal to the transceiver 122 to forward instructions to the inflator controller 123 so that the helmet 120 may be armed and/or enabled to inflate. Additionally or alternatively, the speed sensor 110 provides information/data (e.g., speed/information data, whether the vehicle 102 is travelling at a speed higher than a threshold speed for a predetermined duration, etc.) to the airbag controller 124 so that the airbag controller 124 can further determine whether the inflator controller 123 is to be armed and/or enabled. In these examples, the airbag controller 124 may prevent the airbag of the helmet 120 from deploying unless the vehicle 102 is moving above (or at) the threshold speed and/or a condition is met where the vehicle 102 was at or above (or at) a threshold speed for a sufficient defined time duration (e.g., the vehicle 102 was above 10 miles per hour within the last 10 seconds).

[0028] In some examples, the airbag controller 124 enables or disables an airbag at least partially based on the proximity sensor 104. In particular, the airbag controller 124 may determine airbag deployment at least partially based on whether the proximity sensor 104, which may be a seat/weight sensor, for example, indicates a presence or absence of an occupant. Additionally or alternatively, the proximity sensor 104 may incorporate a light sensor and/or an infrared sensor to detect a presence of the occupant. [0029] In some examples, the proximity sensor 104, which may be mounted to the helmet 120, measures a distance of the helmet 120 relative to a set distance (e.g., a distance threshold) 130 from the vehicle (e.g., a seat of the vehicle) to the helmet 120, which is designated as D s in FIG. 1. In such examples, the proximity sensor 104 determines when the measured distance meets or exceeds the set distance (e.g., 1 meter, 2 meters, 5 meters, etc.), D s , to determine whether the occupant has been removed from the vehicle 102, thereby enabling deployment of the airbag. In some examples, the measured set distance is based on an RF signal strength between the vehicle 102 and the helmet 120 (e.g., via use of

transmitter/receiver pair(s)). Additionally or alternatively, multiple proximity sensors 104 are employed in the helmet 120 to account for different directions of movement of the occupant and/or orientation(s) of the occupant. Additionally or alternatively, the proximity sensor 104 measures a distance of the helmet relative to a visual distance/range (e.g., an outer range limit, a sensor visual range, an outer sensor range limit, etc.) 132 of the proximity sensor 104, Dd. In particular, the proximity sensor 104 verifies that the helmet 120 is within the visual distance 132 to enable deployment of the airbag. In some examples, the proximity sensor 104 compares distances from objects relative to the visual distance 132 and sends a signal when an object has moved towards a range within the visual distance 132, D s , to enable deployment of the airbag.

[0030] FIGS. 2A and 2B represent un-deployed and deployed states, respectively, of the example airbag helmet 120 of FIG. 1. Turning to FIG. 2A, the helmet 120 is shown on representation of an occupant's head and neck (for clarity). The example helmet 120 includes a shell (e.g., a compact shell) 204, a visor 206, an airbag assembly 207 that includes a first airbag (e.g., an upper airbag, a primary airbag) 208 and a second airbag (e.g., a lower airbag, a secondary airbag) 210. The helmet 120 of the illustrated example also includes a communication device 211 (e.g., a radio device, A Bluetooth device, a Wi-Fi device, etc.).

[0031] In this example, the airbag assembly 207 is arranged in an annular shape that surrounds and/or partially surrounds a perimeter of the shell 204. As will be discussed in greater detail below in connection with FIGS. 3A-3C, the first and second airbags 208, 210 of the illustrated example are shaped as annular rings that envelope the example helmet 120 to effectively surround an upper region of the occupant when deployed. In this example, the first and second airbags 208, 210 are composed of Nylon fabric and separated by a transition 212. However, any other appropriate material may be used instead.

[0032] To compactly store the first and second airbags 208, 210 while not obstructing a view of the occupant, the first and second airbags 208, 210 are stored above the visor 206 in the un-deployed state. The positioning of the example first and second airbags 208, 210 also allows effective directional deployment of the first and second airbags 208, 210 as will be discussed below in connection with FIG. 2B.

[0033] Turning to FIG. 2B, the airbag assembly 207 of the example helmet 120 is shown in the aforementioned deployed state. As can be seen in the illustrated example of FIG. 2B, the first and second airbags 208, 210 deploy to envelop a head as well as a neck and/or shoulders of an occupant in multiple (e.g., two, three, four, etc.) distinct volumes/regions, compartments, and/or shapes.

[0034] As can be seen in the illustrated example of FIG. 2B, the first airbag 208 has expanded along an upward direction into a cylindrical form 220 that envelopes an upper portion of the helmet 120 from the transition 212. In this expanded state, the example airbag 208 includes a cylindrical outer surface 221 , which expands past/above the upper portion of the helmet 120 in this example. In some examples, the airbag 208 defines an inner surface (e.g., cylindrical inner surface) 222. Alternatively, in some other examples, the cylindrical form 220 has a covered upper portion (e.g., a covered top instead of an opening at the top).

[0035] According to the illustrated example, the second airbag 210 has expanded in a downward direction into a distinct shape away from the first airbag 208. The example lower airbag 210 includes a ramp portion (e.g., an incline portion) 224 that extends from the transition (e.g., a transition edge, a transition line, etc.) 212, a side (e.g., a rounded side) 226, a transition 228 and a bottom surface 230.

[0036] In some examples, folding lines and folding strategically located stitches or tethers may be used to define the deployed shape of the example airbags 208, 210. In particular, a stitching and/or panel arrangement may be used to define the example geometries and/or resultant shapes of the deployed airbags 208, 210. [0037] FIG. 3A is another view of the example helmet 120 of FIGS. 2A-2B. As can be seen in the illustrated example of FIG. 3 A, the first and second airbags 208, 210 of the airbag assembly 207 surround/envelope a peripheral circumference of the helmet 120. The example first and second airbags 208, 210 are disposed between the upper shell 204, the visor 206 as well as a lower portion (e.g., a lower shell, a lower side cover) 302.

[0038] FIG. 3B illustrates the example helmet 120 shown in FIGS. 2A- 3A, but with its respective first and second airbags 208, 210 removed for clarity. According to the illustrated example of FIG. 3B, an inflator (e.g., a cold gas inflator) 306 is shown disposed at a rear portion of the helmet 120 and within an annular groove 304.

[0039] FIG. 3C is a detailed cross-sectional view depicting the groove 304 and the airbag assembly 207 of the example helmet of FIGS. 2A-3B along the line 3C-3C of FIG. 3A. In the illustrated example of FIG. 3C, the groove 304 mounts and/or captures the inflator 306 as well as at least a portion of the first and second airbags 208, 210. In this example, the first and second airbags 208, 210 at least partially extend out of the groove 304. Further example profiles of the first and second airbags 208, 210 are generally ellipsoid (e.g., kidney bean shaped, crescent shaped, etc.) to surround a round cylindrical surface profile of the inflator 306. According to the illustrated example, the first airbag 208 is positioned to

deploy/expand upward (in the view of FIG. 3C) (e.g., toward a cap of a skull of the occupant) while the second airbag 210 is positioned to deploy/expand downwards (e.g. towards a neck and/or shoulder of the occupant).

[0040] In some examples, the first and second airbags 208, 210 and/or the inflator 306 are surrounded (e.g., encased) in a cover molding (e.g., a polymer molding, an elastomeric molding, etc.) 310, which may be transparent or opaque. In such examples, the cover molding 310 acts a protective barrier that encapsulates/protects the first and second airbags 208, 210 and/or the inflator 306, but can be opened (e.g., ruptured) when the first and second airbags 208, 210 are expanded/deployed by the inflator 306 into their respectable expanded states. While the first and second airbags 208, 210 and/or the inflator 306 are held in place by the cover molding 310 in this example, additionally or alternatively, the first and second airbags 208, 210 and/or the inflator 306 may be retained by clips, structural adhesives and/or other retention methods.

[0041] While the example first and second airbags 208, 210 are shown in a generally ellipsoid uninflated shape (e.g., a kidney bean shape), the example first and second airbags 208, 210 may have any appropriate cross- sectional profile shape including, but not limited to, a square/rectangle, a circular shape, a triangular shape, a pentagon, a hexagon, an angular ring profile, etc.

[0042] FIG. 4A illustrates another example helmet 400. In contrast to the example helmet 120 of FIGS. 2A-3C, the helmet 400 includes an airbag assembly 402 with a single airbag 403 instead of multiple airbags. Similar to the example airbag assembly 207 of FIGS 2A-3C, the airbag 403 expands upward and downward to envelop the helmet 120 and/or an occupant wearing the helmet 120. In particular, the single airbag 403 has multiple chambers that are inflated.

[0043] FIG. 4B illustrates the example helmet 400 of FIG. 4A, but with the airbag 403 removed for clarity. Similar to the example helmet 120, a groove 404 positions and/or aligns an inflator 406 at a rear portion of the helmet 400. In this example, the inflator 406 is a cold

gas/compressed gas inflator mechanism. The inflator 406 may use carbon dioxide (C02), Nitrogen, Helium or any other appropriate gas (e.g., an inert lightweight gas). However, in other examples, any other appropriate type of inflator/inflator mechanism may be used.

[0044] FIG. 4C is a detailed cross-sectional view depicting the groove

404 and the airbag assembly 402 of the example helmet 400 of FIGS. 4A and 4B along a line 4C-4C of FIG. 4A. According to the illustrated example of FIG. 4C, a cross-sectional profile of the single airbag 403 surrounds at least a portion of an outer surface (e.g., a circumference) of the inflator 406. In particular, the profile of the airbag 403 resembles a c- shaped curved profile. This profile allows the airbag 403 to simultaneously deploy in both upward and downward positions. In this example, both the inflator 406 and the airbag 403 are surrounded/encapsulated by a cover molding 410, which may be transparent or opaque.

[0045] While the profile of the airbag 403 of the illustrated example has the aforementioned c-shaped curved profile, the airbag 403 may have any appropriate cross-sectional profile including, but not limited to, a square/rectangle, a circular shape, a triangular shape, a pentagon, a hexagon, an angular ring profile, etc.

[0046] FIG. 5 is a schematic overview of an example airbag deployment system 500 to implement the examples disclosed herein. The example airbag deployment system 500 includes the example airbag controller 124, which has the transceiver 106, a deployment condition analyzer 502 and a sensor data analyzer 504. The example airbag deployment system 500 also includes the vehicle speed sensor 1 10, the engine status sensor 108, the proximity sensor 104, and the transceiver 122, which is wired to the inflator controller 123.

[0047] The example airbag controller 124, which may be located on the vehicle or the helmet and/or integrated with the inflator controller 123, determines whether an inflator (e.g., the inflators 306, 406), which is communicatively coupled to the inflator controller 123, should be enabled for deployment and/or triggered to cause at least one airbag of a helmet to be deployed. In this example, the airbag controller 124 is located in a vehicle.

[0048] The example inflator controller 123 directs (e.g., locally directs) one or more inflators of the helmet. In particular, the inflator controller 123 may be used to interpret signals (e.g., command signals) received from the airbag controller 124 by the transceiver 122.

[0049] According to the illustrated example, the transceiver 122 is in wireless communication with the transceiver 106 of the vehicle (e.g., a motorcycle). As a result, the example transceiver 122 receives signals (e.g., deployment instructions, airbag enabling instructions, etc.) from the airbag controller 124 transmitted by the transceiver 106. In turn, the transceiver 122 forwards the signals to the inflator controller 123.

[0050] The example deployment condition analyzer 502 determines whether at least one condition is sufficient to allow the inflator to be enabled. In this example, the condition analyzer 502 receives speed information from the speed sensor 110 and determines whether a speed of the vehicle has reached and/or exceeded a specified threshold speed (e.g., 5 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour, 15 miles per hour, etc.) to enable the inflator to deploy the airbag in response to the occupant being removed from the vehicle. Additionally or alternatively, the example deployment condition analyzer 502 determines whether an engine of the vehicle is activated or running so that the inflator controller 123 can enable the inflator.

[0051] In this example, the sensor data analyzer 504 receives incoming sensor data from sensors of the vehicle to encode, analyze, filter and/or pre-process the sensor data for the deployment condition analyzer 502. In some examples, the sensor data analyzer 504 performs an analysis of sensor data received at the transceiver 122. In some examples, the sensor data analyzer 504 processes sensor data from sensor(s) of the helmet (e.g., accelerometers, impact sensors, etc.) based on data received by the transceiver 106. In particular, the sensor(s) may be used to detect an impact of the vehicle and/or the helmet/occupant. [0052] The sensor data analyzer 504 of the illustrated example may determine a speed of the vehicle and may compare the speed to a threshold. In such examples, the sensor data analyzer 504 may provide a signal indicating to the example deployment condition analyzer 502 that the vehicle has met or exceeded the threshold.

[0053] According to the illustrated example, the sensor data analyzer 504 also determines whether an engine/motor of the vehicle is activated or running. In other examples, the sensor data analyzer 504 determines whether the vehicle, as a whole, is activated (e.g., an electric vehicle such as an electric motorcycle or an electric car is turned on).

[0054] The example proximity sensor 104, which may be located on the vehicle or the helmet, determines whether an occupant and/or the helmet are in proximity to the vehicle. For example, the proximity sensor 104 may determine that the helmet is at or has exceeded a set distance, D s , from the vehicle to enable deployment of the airbag. Additionally or alternatively, the proximity sensor 104 detects an object that is in close proximity to the helmet (e.g., approaching) and/or about to impact the occupant or the helmet.

[0055] In some examples, the proximity sensor 104 may detect when an object is less than the set distance, D s , from the helmet and/or the occupant. In such examples, the airbag does not deploy when the obj ect is at a distance less than the set distance, D s (e.g., not until the occupant has been removed from the vehicle, thereby increasing the measured distance from the occupant to the vehicle). Additionally, in some examples, the airbag also does not deploy when the helmet at a distance greater than a visual distance (e.g., an outer range), Dd (e.g., the airbag deploys at a measured distance between the set distance and the visual distance).

[0056] In some examples, the proximity sensor 104 measures a beacon signal of a transmitter that is coupled to the helmet to determine a distance between the helmet and the vehicle. Additionally or alternatively, the proximity sensor 104 is a seat pressure sensor system (e.g., weight sensor) on a seat of the vehicle to determine a presence of the occupant on the seat.

[0057] The transceivers 106, 122 may use any appropriate

communication protocol including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, local area network (LAN), radio frequency identification (RFID), etc. In some examples, the transceiver 106 operates as a transmitter and the transceiver 122 operates as a receiver. In other examples, both of the transceivers 106, 122 operate with both transmit and receive capabilities.

[0058] To enable deployment, deploy and/or trigger the airbag of the helmet, the deployment condition analyzer 502 of the illustrated example determines that the speed of the vehicle has met or exceeded the threshold speed by analyzing sensor data to determine at least one condition of the vehicle. In particular, the deployment condition analyzer 502 of the illustrated example triggers and/or enables deployment/inflation of the airbag based on whether conditions are met (e.g., a threshold speed has been met within a time duration and/or the vehicle is activated) and, in turn, generates a signal. As a result, the example transceiver 106 transmits the signal to the transceiver 122 corresponding to the example inflator controller 123. Additionally or alternatively, an accelerometer and/or an inertial sensor of the helmet, which is in communication with the deployment condition analyzer 502, produces data to be used in determining whether the airbag should be deployed.

[0059] In some examples, the sensor analyzer 504 verifies/determines (e.g., periodically) that the engine is activated (e.g., via the engine status sensor 108). In some examples, this verification is sent along with and/or in conjunction with the signal related to the vehicle speed. In such examples, the deployment condition analyzer 502 determines/verifies that the vehicle has met or exceeded the threshold speed and that the engine of the vehicle activated, for example.

[0060] Additionally or alternatively, the proximity sensor 104 determines whether the occupant is in/on the vehicle and the proximity sensor 104 provides this determination to the sensor data analyzer 504 and/or the deployment condition analyzer 502. In particular, the deployment condition analyzer 502 of the illustrated example does not enable the inflator to trigger unless the occupant is determined to be off/separated from the vehicle.

[0061] In some examples, the transceivers 106, 122 operate as proximity sensors to measure a distance between the helmet and the vehicle. In other words, the transceivers 106, 122 of such examples may determine a distance (e.g., an estimated distance between the vehicle and the helmet and/or the occupant) based on measured signal strengths at the transceiver 106 and/or the transceiver 122 (e.g., the transceivers 106, 122 act as signal strength measuring pairs).

[0062] While an example manner of implementing the airbag deployment system 500 is illustrated in FIG. 5, one or more of the elements, processes and/or devices illustrated in FIGS. 5 may be combined, divided, re-arranged, omitted, eliminated and/or implemented in any other way. Further, the example airbag controller 124, the example inflator controller 123, the example transceiver 122, the example deployment condition analyzer 502, the example sensor data analyzer 504, the example transceiver 106, and/or, more generally, the example airbag deployment system 500 of FIG. 5 may be implemented by hardware, software, firmware and/or any combination of hardware, software and/or firmware. Thus, for example, any of the example airbag controller 124, the example inflator controller 123, the example transceiver 122, the example deployment condition analyzer 502, the example sensor data analyzer 504, the example transceiver 106, and/or, more generally, the example airbag deployment system 500 could be implemented by one or more analog or digital circuit(s), logic circuits, programmable processor(s), application specific integrated circuit(s) (ASIC(s)), programmable logic device(s) (PLD(s)) and/or field programmable logic device(s) (FPLD(s)). When reading any of the apparatus or system claims of this patent to cover a purely software and/or firmware implementation, at least one of the example airbag controller 124, the example inflator controller 123, the example transceiver 122, the example deployment condition analyzer 502, the example sensor data analyzer 504, the example transceiver 106, is/are hereby expressly defined to include a tangible computer readable storage device or storage disk such as a memory, a digital versatile disk (DVD), a compact disk (CD), a Blu-ray disk, etc. storing the software and/or firmware. Further still, the example airbag deployment system 500 of FIG. 5 may include one or more elements, processes and/or devices in addition to, or instead of, those illustrated in FIG. 5, and/or may include more than one of any or all of the illustrated elements, processes and devices.

[0063] Flowcharts representative of example methods for

implementing the example airbag deployment system 500 of FIG. 5 are shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. In these examples, the methods may be implemented by a program for execution by a processor such as the processor 812 shown in the example processor platform 800 discussed below in connection with FIG. 8. The program may be embodied in software stored on a tangible computer readable storage medium such as a CD-ROM, a floppy disk, a hard drive, a digital versatile disk (DVD), a Blu-ray disk, or a memory associated with the processor 812, but the entire program and/or parts thereof could alternatively be executed by a device other than the processor 812 and/or embodied in firmware or dedicated hardware. Further, although the example program is described with reference to the flowcharts illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, many other methods of implementing the example airbag deployment system 500 may alternatively be used. For example, the order of execution of the blocks may be changed, and/or some of the blocks described may be changed, eliminated, or combined.

[0064] As mentioned above, the example methods of FIGS. 6 and 7 may be implemented using coded instructions (e.g., computer and/or machine readable instructions) stored on a tangible computer readable storage medium such as a hard disk drive, a flash memory, a read-only memory (ROM), a compact disk (CD), a digital versatile disk (DVD), a cache, a random-access memory (RAM) and/or any other storage device or storage disk in which information is stored for any duration (e.g., for extended time periods, permanently, for brief instances, for temporarily buffering, and/or for caching of the information). As used herein, the term tangible computer readable storage medium is expressly defined to include any type of computer readable storage device and/or storage disk and to exclude propagating signals and to exclude transmission media. As used herein, "tangible computer readable storage medium" and "tangible machine readable storage medium" are used interchangeably. Additionally or alternatively, the example methods of FIGS. 6 and 7 may be implemented using coded instructions (e.g., computer and/or machine readable instructions) stored on a non-transitory computer and/or machine readable medium such as a hard disk drive, a flash memory, a read-only memory, a compact disk, a digital versatile disk, a cache, a random-access memory and/or any other storage device or storage disk in which information is stored for any duration (e.g., for extended time periods, permanently, for brief instances, for temporarily buffering, and/or for caching of the information). As used herein, the term non-transitory computer readable medium is expressly defined to include any type of computer readable storage device and/or storage disk and to exclude propagating signals and to exclude transmission media. As used herein, when the phrase "at least" is used as the transition term in a preamble of a claim, it is open-ended in the same manner as the term "comprising" is open ended.

[0065] The method of FIG. 6 begins where a vehicle (e.g., a motorcycle, an ATV, an automobile, a jet ski, a helicopter, etc.) is being ridden or is about to be ridden by an occupant wearing a helmet with at least one deployable airbag. In this example, there is wireless

communication between the vehicle and the helmet.

[0066] According to the illustrated example, an airbag inflator control module (e.g., the airbag controller 124), which is located in the vehicle in this example, is initiated (block 602). In particular, the airbag inflator control module of the illustrated example is initiated to detect and/or enable detection of vehicle conditions such as whether the vehicle is activated/on, a speed of the vehicle and/or whether an occupant is present and/or seated on the vehicle.

[0067] In some examples, a vehicle starter module of the vehicle is initiated (block 604). In particular, the example vehicle starter module is initiated to start turn on/activate the vehicle.

[0068] Next, according to the illustrated example, the deployment condition analyzer 502 and/or the sensor data analyzer 504 determines whether the vehicle engine is activated (block 606). For example, the engine status sensor 108 determines whether the engine and/or the vehicle is activated (e.g., an electric vehicle is turned on) and/or transmits a signal that indicates an engine/vehicle status to the sensor data analyzer 504 and/or the deployment conditional analyzer 502. If the vehicle engine is activated (block 606), the process proceeds to block 608. Otherwise, control of the process returns to block 604. In some examples, the determination of engine status is performed periodically (e.g., every 10 milliseconds, 1 second, 10 seconds, etc.).

[0069] In this example, a vehicle seat pressure sensor (SPS) is turned on (block 608). In particular, the vehicle seat pressure sensor (SPS) of the illustrated example is turned on to detect a presence and/or

movement/acceleration of the occupant.

[0070] In some examples, the example proximity sensor 104 determines whether an occupant is detected/present (block 610). In this example, a proximity sensor 104 mounted to the helmet is used to determine whether the helmet and the occupant are at a set distance, D s , from the vehicle and whether that determined distance meets or exceeds a distance threshold to determine whether the occupant is present on the vehicle. In some examples, it is also determined whether the helmet and the occupant are within a visual distance, Dd. For example, when it is determined that the helmet and occupant have exceeded the distance, D s , it is also verified that the helmet and occupant are still within the visual distance, Dd. If the occupant is not detected/present (block 610), control of the process returns to block 604. Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 612.

[0071] A speed is measured by the example speed sensor 110 (block 612). For example, the speed sensor 110 may record speed information including a time history of speed.

[0072] According to the illustrated example, the measured

speed/velocity is compared to a speed threshold by the example sensor data analyzer 504 (block 614). If the measured speed is greater than or equal to the threshold speed, which can be denoted by V m in (block 614), the process proceeds to block 618. Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 616.

[0073] If the vehicle speed is less than the threshold speed in this example (block 614), the inflator is prevented from activating by the airbag controller 124 (block 616) and control of the process returns to block 612. In particular, the airbag controller 124 of the illustrated example prevents the inflator controller 123 from enabling airbag inflation.

[0074] Once the vehicle speed is equal to or greater than the threshold speed (block 614), the inflator is activated and/or enabled by the inflation controller 123 (block 618).

[0075] In some examples, it is determined whether an occupant is still present/detected (block 620). In some examples, this determination is based on the helmet and occupant being at a distance greater than the set distance, D s , but less than the visual distance, Dd (for deployment). If the occupant is present/detected (block 620), control of the process returns to block 618. Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 622. At block 622, a signal is sent, via the example airbag controller 124, to the inflator controller 123 of the helmet to enable deployment of the airbag and/or to deploy the airbag (block 622) and the process ends.

[0076] The example process 700 of FIG. 7 begins where an occupant is riding/driving/operating a vehicle (e.g., a motorcycle). In this example, the inflator control module is in the vehicle.

[0077] In some examples, an inflator control module such as the example airbag controller 124 of the vehicle is initiated and/or enabled (block 702). Additionally or alternatively, the inflator controller 123 is also initiated.

[0078] In some examples, the vehicle starter module is initiated (block 704). Additionally or alternatively, an engine is turned on as the vehicle starter module is initiated.

[0079] According to the illustrated example, it is determined by the example sensor data analyzer 504 whether the engine of the vehicle is activated (block 706). If it is determined that the vehicle is not on, control of the process returns to block 704. Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 708.

[0080] According to the illustrated example, a speed is obtained and/or measured from a vehicle speedometer or the speed sensor 1 10 (block 708).

[0081] Next, it is determined whether the speed meets (or exceeds) a minimum velocity by the deployment condition analyzer 502 and/or the sensor data analyzer 504 (block 710). If it is determined that the does not meet (or exceed) the minimum velocity (block 710), control of the process returns to block 708. Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 712.

[0082] In some examples, a proximity sensor in the helmet is turned on based on certain vehicle conditions (block 712). In particular, the proximity sensor 104 may be turned on after the deployment condition analyzer 502 and/or the sensor data analyzer 504 determines that the engine is activated and/or the vehicle is travelling at a speed at (or greater than) the threshold speed.

[0083] In this example, the sensor data analyzer 504 determines whether a proximity distance (e.g., a measured proximity distance) is less than a defined deploying distance by the example deployment condition analyzer 502 (block 714). If the set distance, D s , is less than the defined deployment distance, control of the process returns to block 712.

Otherwise, the process proceeds to block 716. Additionally or

alternatively, the sensor data analyzer 504 determines whether a weight sensor of the vehicle has detected a sudden change in measured weight and/or the weight has dropped below a threshold (e.g., 60 lbs., 70 lbs., 80 lbs., 90 lbs., 100 lbs., etc.). Additionally or alternatively, an acceleration associated with the occupant and/or a rate of change of the weight is taken into account when determining whether the occupant is present. In some examples, the threshold weight is based on an initial measured weight of the occupant, for example.

[0084] According to the illustrated example, if the proximity sensor distance is not less than the deploying distance (block 714), the deployment condition analyzer 502 of the airbag controller 124 causes the transceiver 106 to send a signal to the transceiver 122 and the example controller 123 of the helmet to enable deployment and/or activation of the airbag (block 716) and the process ends. In some examples, the airbag is only deployed when it is verified that the occupant is within the visual distance, Dd.

[0085] FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an example processor platform 800 capable of executing instructions to implement the methods of FIGS. 6 and 7 and the airbag deployment system 500 of FIG. 5. The processor platform 800 can be, for example, a server, a personal computer, a mobile device (e.g., a cell phone, a smart phone, a tablet such as an iPad™), a personal digital assistant (PDA), an Internet appliance, a personal video recorder, a set top box, or any other type of computing device.

[0086] The processor platform 800 of the illustrated example includes a processor 812. The processor 812 of the illustrated example is hardware. For example, the processor 812 can be implemented by one or more integrated circuits, logic circuits, microprocessors or controllers from any desired family or manufacturer.

[0087] The processor 812 of the illustrated example includes a local memory 813 (e.g., a cache). In this example, the processor 812 includes the example airbag controller 124, the example inflator controller 123, the example transceiver 122, the example deployment condition analyzer 502, the example sensor data analyzer 504 and the example transceiver 106. The processor 812 of the illustrated example is in communication with a main memory including a volatile memory 814 and a non-volatile memory 816 via a bus 818. The volatile memory 814 may be implemented by Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM), Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), RAMBUS Dynamic Random Access Memory (RDRAM) and/or any other type of random access memory device. The non-volatile memory 816 may be implemented by flash memory and/or any other desired type of memory device. Access to the main memory 814, 816 is controlled by a memory controller.

[0088] The processor platform 800 of the illustrated example also includes an interface circuit 820. The interface circuit 820 may be implemented by any type of interface standard, such as an Ethernet interface, a universal serial bus (USB), and/or a PCI express interface.

[0089] In the illustrated example, one or more input devices 822 are connected to the interface circuit 820. The input device(s) 822 permit(s) a user to enter data and commands into the processor 812. The input device(s) can be implemented by, for example, an audio sensor, a microphone, a camera (still or video), a keyboard, a button, a mouse, a touchscreen, a track-pad, a trackball, isopoint and/or a voice recognition system.

[0090] One or more output devices 824 are also connected to the interface circuit 820 of the illustrated example. The output devices 824 can be implemented, for example, by display devices (e.g., a light emitting diode (LED), an organic light emitting diode (OLED), a liquid crystal display, a cathode ray tube display (CRT), a touchscreen, a tactile output device, a printer and/or speakers). The interface circuit 820 of the illustrated example, thus, typically includes a graphics driver card, a graphics driver chip or a graphics driver processor.

[0091] The interface circuit 820 of the illustrated example also includes a communication device such as a transmitter, a receiver, a transceiver, a modem and/or network interface card to facilitate exchange of data with external machines (e.g., computing devices of any kind) via a network 826 (e.g., an Ethernet connection, a digital subscriber line (DSL), a telephone line, coaxial cable, a cellular telephone system, etc.).

[0092] The processor platform 800 of the illustrated example also includes one or more mass storage devices 828 for storing software and/or data. Examples of such mass storage devices 828 include floppy disk drives, hard drive disks, compact disk drives, Blu-ray disk drives, RAID systems, and digital versatile disk (DVD) drives.

[0093] Coded instructions 832 to implement the methods FIGS. 6 and 7 may be stored in the mass storage device 828, in the volatile memory 814, in the non-volatile memory 816, and/or on a removable tangible computer readable storage medium such as a CD or DVD.

[0094] From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that the above disclosed methods and apparatus enable an effective control of airbag helmets to take into account vehicle status (e.g., whether the vehicle is activated/tumed on), vehicle speed, a presence of an occupant/rider and/or a detected impact. As a result, the examples disclosed herein prevent unintended deployment of airbags. The examples disclosed herein also enable compact and effective storage of airbag(s) in helmets such that multiple airbags and/or air bag compartments may deploy in different directions to envelop and/or cover a vehicle occupant when needed.

[0095] Although certain example methods, apparatus and articles of manufacture have been disclosed herein, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all methods, apparatus and articles of manufacture fairly falling within the scope of the claims of this patent. While the examples disclosed herein are related to helmets with airbags, the examples disclosed herein may be applied to any appropriate airbag use including deployment from a vehicle instead of a worn article, or airbags applied to other worn articles including shirts, jackets, pants, shoes, undergarments, etc.