Driving experiences are very much improved these days as a result of camera-based rearview mirrors to engines and transmissions that can adapt to the terrain ahead based on GPS and other information, including advancement in tyres.
To say the least, many traditional car parts have gone high-tech. It would be wrong to say tyres haven’t really changed much since the advent of the automobile, but there is some truth in it. The last radical change to where the rubber meets road was when steel-belted radial tyres were introduced almost 70 years ago.
However, all these are beginning to change. Michelin recently introduced its Vision concept tyre, a one-piece wheel-and-tyre combo that’s “airless, connected, rechargeable, customizable, and organic.
The rechargeable part means that the tread can be changed to adapt to various road conditions, climates, and driving styles. However, the French company made it known at the unveiling of the concept that the technology will take at least 10 years to materialise.
At the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show this week, Continental also showed two tech-based tyre concepts—ContiSense and ContiAdapt—that could change the way we ride on rubber. While ContiAdapt is a bit further in the future, ContiSense could be coming to a road near you soon.
Technological Advancement In Tyres
ContiSense uses sensors embedded in specially developed, electrically conductive rubber to constantly measure tread depth and temperature and send the information to an in-car receiver.
Inflation pressure is already measured on all newer cars via the mandatory Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). But a car’s TPMS only warns of reduced pressure, whereas ContiSense can immediately tell a driver when the tire has been punctured.
Continental plans to evolve ContiSense, and make it available in the next 5 years. The aim is for it to be able to send information about road surfaces, including temperature and the presence of snow or water, to the car or a driver’s smartphone via Bluetooth.
The small patch of rubber that contacts the road and a car rides on has almost as much impact on acceleration, braking, and cornering as some mechanical parts, and can greatly affect fuel economy.
As such, if a single circle of rubber could be adjusted on the fly to adapt to various driving styles and weather conditions, this can make the car adapt for optimal fuel economy.
ContiAdapt gets closer to this ideal by using micro-compressors integrated into a wheel with a variable-width rim to alter the tyre pressure accordingly.
A demo allowed adjusting a tyre for wet, uneven, slippery, and normal road conditions and also for better fuel economy at the touch of a button.
With different automobile manufacturers making the best use of technology and adapting the use of these types of sensors, consumers can only hope for the best driving experience.