Let’s face it, we all take our tires for granted. If you’ve just bought a new car, the odds are you have no idea even what brand they are. It’s just a tire, after all. Most of us never check them routinely, and only bend the knee if they look dangerously flat. But if you thought you didn’t need to acknowledge your tires, you’re in for a shock.
The next generation of tires will not only refuse to be ignored, they will start talking to you, Emilio Tiberio, Chief Technology Officer of Bridgestone Europe, said in an interview.
In many cars and SUVs now, tire pressure information is available, but the next generation will actively seek out the attention of fleet managers to say they are running dangerously low, or are wearing thin, and will tell you precisely when they can no longer do their job. They will also be lighter, and be part of the new connected technology which will report back many functions of the car thanks to their contract with the road. Airline pilots who routinely land harshly will have to improve their skills. And with the advent of connectivity, tires will warn other motorists about dangerous obstacles like potholes.
“Mobility is going through a rapid transformation and driving new innovations in the tire industry. New tire technology optimized for electric vehicles and new business innovations will enable the trend towards mobility as a service. The trial trends are summarized in the acronym CASE: Connected, Automated, Shared, Electrified,” Tiberio said.
Autonomous cars will present new challenges.
“Run-flat tires will be even more important with the growth in autonomous cars, which will assure the mobility of the vehicle, no matter what. We are very active in developing the tire of the future which will be connected. We can talk to the tires, understand their condition. We are developing sensors so that fleet managers can measure pressures, and sense if there is damage to the tire before it actually deflates and warn about the need for replacement through wear.”
“In the future there will be more night deliveries so we need to cut noise, and we are developing tires which limit noise. We have also cut weight an average of 10%. The advent of autonomous cars presents new problems because the occupant won’t be driving but maybe reading, or checking mail so the noise level inside the car needs to be limited and vibrations cut.”
Tiberio said new technology allows Bridgestone to improve its aviation business, and may put more pressure on pilots.
“In the past we sold tires by the number of landings, but today we can determine what kind of landings took place, whether the surfaces were harsh or loads full, while some pilots were less gentle than others. We can exchange data with airlines and can decide to extend the tires lives, or shorten them.”
Earlier this year Bridgestone bought the telematics fleet-management business division of TomTom NV for $1 billion so that it could speed up its ability to compete in the world of the connected, intelligent car.
Bridgestone Corp of Japan is the world’s biggest tire company in terms of sales, which totalled $27.22 billion in 2017, accounting for 82% of its total revenue, according to a report in Tire Business. Second was Michelin of France at $25.40 billion, followed by Goodyear Tire and Rubber of the U.S. ($15.47 billion), and Continental of Germany ($13.11 billion).
In June, Bridgestone introduced a new lightweight tire called Enliten, which it said reduces rolling resistance by up to 20% to reduce fuel consumption, reduces weight by 10% with no trade-off on the life of the tire.
Tires will be able to report difficult road conditions.
“Shared mobility means the number of cars on the road will be less, but distance travelled will be higher so tires need to last much longer. Autonomous cars are likely to be kinder to the tires than humans. The next generation of tires will be better able to withstand pothole damage, and with the system of sensors, will be able to report back and construct maps recording danger points on the roads which following vehicles can avoid. We will be able to upload all this into the cloud.”
So the next time you look at a car you’re thinking of buying and in the time honoured fashion “kick the tires” be careful. Modern tires might kick back.