Tech

This motorcycle airbag vest deactivates if you haven’t paid your sub

Not the smart clothing we were promised.

5/7/2006 Photo by Krissy Krummenacker 200601004 Motorcycles leave East Penn Manufacturing in Lyons and head to Dorney Park for the "Ride for Life" Sunday, May 7, 2006. (Photo By Krissy Krummenacker/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

Motorcycles are, of course, incredibly dangerous vehicles. Riders don’t stand much of a chance against giant, two-ton boxes of fast-moving metal, or against immovable static objects like lampposts. There have been innovations in the area of safety, however, such as helmets and clothing that include airbags that inflate when a collision is detected. But when those airbags are linked to a subscription fee, you have a recipe for disaster.

Klim’s Ai-1 vest promises comprehensive coverage of a rider’s by incorporating airbags around the chest and back. The vest sells for $400 and includes a detection module from another company called In&Motion. Weirdly, activating that module costs another $400 after purchase, bringing the total cost of the vest to $800.

To bring down the sticker shock, buyers can pay for access to the module through a subscription of $12 a month or $120 per year. But here comes the problem as SlashGear points out: if you stop paying, the vest stops working.

Bad in-vest-ment — Now, Klim says In&Motion gives riders a 30-day grace period to renew their subscription if their payment method on file stops working or there’s another issue, the vest won’t go from working to not mid-ride, and, eventually, once subscribers have paid the equivalent of the outright purchase price in fees, they can stop paying.

The vest includes LED indicators that show if it’s paid-up, charged, and ride-ready, so you’re unlikely to head out with it not activated but thinking it is. And we’re sure there’s a lengthy end-user license agreement that indemnifies both companies if you somehow still manage to... but it still feels a bit gross.

Another sub — Subscriptions and buy-now-pay-later financing models are all the rage nowadays, as breaking down purchases into smaller monthly payments has the psychological advantage of making you feel like you’re getting a better deal, plus companies love the recurring revenue. Tesla does similar things — its vehicles have certain features that are already built-in, but which can’t only be unlocked unless you pay up.

But safety features? It’s easy to see how another brand could come in and compete with Klim by saying it wouldn’t do this. Meanwhile, on the dystopian end of things, it’s easy to see how other opportunistic companies could make features like airbags optional, subscription-based, extras. BMW’s already doing a version of it, in fact — if you want to unlock its “high beam assist” feature in Europe you have to pay for it.

This is not the future of smart and connected devices we were expecting, frankly.