BC Explains: Connected tyres
01 June 2018
Author: Rachel Boagey
In our second explainer feature, Rachel Boagey discovers how connected tyres are reinventing the wheel.
Connected tyres may sound like something out of science fiction but if every other aspect of our car is getting connected, why aren't the tyres?
Tyre pressure-monitoring systems (TPMS) were made mandatory on new cars from 2014, which has helped to improve the safety of tyres on our roads. But still, in 2016, tyre-related incidents on UK roads led to eight fatalities and 120 serious injuries, according to Highways England.
So why is this still happening? The truth is, low pressures, barely legal tread depths and cheap rubber are all issues still faced by motorists. While technological innovation has already brought about profound changes in this field, there is still room to make tyres smarter and more connected.
What is a connected tyre?
Connected tyres look the same as standard tyres, but come with small, very light sensors that gather data. Adopting this type of tyre will enable fleet operators to continually receive transmissions of processed tyre data, combined with vehicle data that will increase safety and efficiency out on the roads.
The good news is that there is a great deal of work under way in this area. Big-name tyre manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear and Continental are all experimenting with sensors connected to the internet of things (IoT) and software platforms to measure and monitor performance.
Many companies are looking to microchips embedded in the next generation of connected tyres. These, combined with massive strides in the materials from which they're made, will maximise safety and longevity, while minimising carbon emissions and fuel costs. Furthermore, they'll be able to convey relevant and timely data to the vehicle, its driver and the fleet manager.
These tyres combine telematics and analytical forecast software in order to achieve a number of goals:
? identifying tyre issues
? forecasting tyre change cycles
? allowing fleet operators to plan downtime for tyre changes
? optimising efficiency through correct tyre pressures
? effectively identifying and fixing tyre issues before they happen
? making vehicles safer on roads.
Anthony Machin, head of content at data specialist Glass's, told BusinessCar, "This new vehicle concept of connected tyres can actually tell drivers and fleet managers useful information about vehicle tyres. This is not just about tyre pressure monitoring; this is a leap forward in terms of real-time data about vehicle tyres."
Gathered through a small sensor in each tyre, data includes traction, tread wear, temperature and load. "Drivers and fleet managers can use this data to optimise the performance and safety of the vehicle, with the ability to predict when new tyres are needed or when tyre maintenance is required," Machin says.
The future of tyres
Last year, Goodyear unveiled a concept that it says brings the world of the connected car to tyres. The IntelliGrip Urban concept is designed to maximise uptime and energy efficiency for 'mobility as a service' providers in urban environments.
The concept tyre is designed for future-generation autonomous electric ride-sharing vehicles in urban areas. It senses road and weather conditions, enabling the car to optimise speed, braking, handling and stability, and goes one step further by sending the information to the cloud to benefit the whole fleet.
Continental's ContiSense is based on the development of electrically conductive rubber compounds that enable electric signals to be sent from a sensor in the tyre to a receiver in the car. Rubber-based sensors continuously monitor tread depth and temperature. If the measured values are above or below predefined limits, the system immediately alerts the driver. If anything penetrates the tread, a circuit in the tyre is closed, also triggering an immediate warning for the driver. This is faster than current systems, which only warn the driver after tyre pressure has already begun to fall.
In the future, the ContiSense system will feature additional sensors that can also be used individually. Thus, information about the road surface, such as its temperature or the presence of snow, can be 'felt' by the tyre and passed on to the driver. The data can be transmitted to the vehicle electronically or via bluetooth to a smartphone.
Pirelli's 'cyber tyre', Connesso, is the first integrated tyre platform that interfaces with the driver by exploiting a sensor embedded in the tread groove and connected via an app. Pirelli says the tyres come at a time when almost every part of modern cars offer some form of connectivity except the tyres - one of the most important aspects of any vehicle. These smart tyres create a conversation between driver and tyre through continuous feedback being sent to a Pirelli app. The app can also communicate directly with the car to improve safety, with different ABS and stability control settings for different temperatures. EVs, for example, can more accurately predict battery range.
The internet of tyres
It's not only the big tyre manufacturers that have been involved in making these futuristic connected tyres. Silent Sensors is a technology company and provider of smart electronics for rubber, polymer and elastomer-based materials. It aims to provide an efficient, easy tyre management system at low cost, using patented radio frequency ID technology. It measures tyre pressure, tread and temperature by simply applied sensors, allowing fleet owners to better manage one of their most vital resources. The company says the effective use of better technology improves an asset's performance, extends an asset's useable lifetime and increases its end-of-life value.
Silent Sensors' CEO Marcus Taylor tells BusinessCar, "The connected tyre has many applications in current and future vehicles. Data generated by tags and sensors throughout the asset's lifetime have immediate and future value.
"One of our end goals is to move the intelligence into the tyre - what I would like to call 'sentient products' - by applying AI at the edge of the cloud, rather than concentrating everything up in the cloud, so those algorithms and those business opportunities are enabled. This has a transformative effect on businesses."
By adding IoT to tyres, Taylor explains, fleet managers will be able to record many events during the life cycle of the tyre and will enable 'tyres as a service'.
"This technology has been around for a while. but the business imperative hasn't been there as much as it is now," he says. "Connected tyres are now becoming an object of utility, rather than just an aspirational object."
Improving efficiency and safety
Future-generation autonomous fleets will be operating in a complex environment, with other vehicles, drivers, pedestrians and data from all of the elements making up IoT. Smart tyres could play a critical role in this evolving ecosystem.
Machin says it is likely that car manufacturers will need to adopt this technology over the coming years. as part of their continuing campaign to lower vehicle emissions while maximising fuel economy and occupant safety.
Connected tyres will ultimately save fleet managers money on their fleets. By knowing exactly how much tread is left on each tyre, they can predict when a tyre needs replacing, so that fleet managers can plan required downtime for affected vehicles.
"In parallel, fleet managers can improve the durability of the tyres and fuel consumption in their fleets, by monitoring under-inflated tyres and ensuring their drivers manage air pressures correctly," says Machin. "Ultimately, having smart and connected tyres that inform of issues before they manifest will make vehicles safer and more reliable overall."