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"I did more research, and realized I almost would rather be a biologist than a writer, because there was incredible stuff going on!"
- Greg Bear

Crash Balloons  
  Inflatable bags that would both cushion and hold a flycycle driver in the event of a crash.  

For his novel Ringworld, Larry Niven came up with the idea of a flycycle to cover great distances in reasonable style. They resembled flying motorcycles; what would happen if you lost control or were about to crash? Flycycles were open to the sky like a motorcycle.

His 'cycle slammed hard up against him, as if he'd been booted in the butt by a giant foot. An instant later the power cut off entirely.

Crash balloons exploded before and behind him. They were shaped balloons, and they interlocked around him like a pair of clasped hands. Louis could not so much as move his hands or turn his head.

From Ringworld, by Larry Niven.
Published by Ballantine in 1970
Additional resources -

It happens that flycycle also were equipped with automatic deceleration in the event that a crash was imminent.

In rereading the novel, I wondered if perhaps Niven had stumbled onto the idea of a car air bag. However, I'm pretty sure that airbags were available in some form in the late 1960's. Also, inflatable bags were proposed for aircraft during WWII, so it is an idea with a long history. If you're interested, take a look at how airbags work.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ringworld
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Ringworld
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

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