Smart tyres come of age

November 13, 2017

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Smart tyre developments are driving forward the future of the mobility ecosystem.

Connected cars are nothing without smart tyres. Dramatically having evolved from the 19th century pneumatic rubber tyre, smart (or intelligent) tyres, which have been developed to meet fuel economy demands and strict emissions criteria, communicate with the road, with the driver, as well as the other like-connected cars and networked service providers.

Fuel efficiency, light weighting and further sustainability with electric vehicles (EVs) are demand drivers for the segment, which is expected to garner a significant share in the projected 2.5 billion unit-strong global markets for tyres by 2022.

Gaining traction, around 414 million units of smart tyres are expected to be rolled out by 2025. It is also predicted that smart tyres will become a vehicle staple in the years to come.

Airless tyre’s promise of no blowouts

Imagine a tyre that does not go flat so there is no need for tyre changes or spare tyres. The hackneyed inflated pneumatic tyres may soon find a tough rival in airless tyres that offer a myriad of advantages.

A jack of all trades, the airless tyre has been described to be eco-friendly, with reduced carbon emissions from lower rolling resistance as well as being recyclable at its end-of-life. It also has potential for use in personal cars and industrial trucks; and is practically maintenance-free as it does not get punctured or run a flat tyre.

French tyre maker Michelin aced in the airless tyre advancement with its Tweel–a portmanteau of tyre and wheel range, which has come a long way since it was first proposed in 2005. This year, Michelin introduced X-Tweel variations, such as the 3D printed smart tyres built with recyclable materials, including wood chips, straw, orange peel, and sugar byproducts.


Other tyre makers have jumped onto the airless tyre bandwagon. One of these is Tokyo-headquartered Bridgestone that unveiled its first airless tyre in 2011 and has since developed it for various applications, including an airless tyre concept for bikes, which the company expects to commercialise by 2019.

Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) has its smart tyre prototype, Gyroblade airless tyre, which it showcased in 2015. It is notable for its resin spokes (in place of a pneumatic air chamber) and a tyre sealant that prevents air loss in the event of a puncture. The Japanese tyre company is also fitting Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Fine-Comfort Ride concept car with airless tyres to fulfil Toyota’s aim for light weighting its car tyres by 30%.

Toyo Tires, meanwhile, has also forayed into nonpneumatic tyres, which it dubs as “noair”. The Japanheadquartered tyre manufacturer has been conducting research since 2006 on noair, which is described as “a neo-futuristic airless concept tyre that does not require any filling of air”.


In 2012, Toyo Tires introduced a prototype as a reference exhibit at a show, with the aim of demonstrating some of the technological developments that had been amassed up to that point.

The noair concept tyre has the basic tyre structure for the inner core side, which comprises special high-rigidity resin spokes to ensure sufficient strength to support the load. Basic tyre performance, namely “drive, turn, stop” is also achieved by using a rubber material for the outer tread that comes into contact with the road surface. The section between the spokes and rubber tread, the outer diameter ring, is reinforced with carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) that serves to reduce the load imposed on the spokes.

Toyo Tires disclosed that there are still some outstanding issues to be resolved before it enters practical use, with R&D continuing on this front.

Sensor tyres for EVs

With a focus on automated driving and EVs, Germanyheadquartered Continental introduced two new tyre technology concepts during a German motor show recently. Known as ContiSense and ContiAdapt, the technologies ensure “greater road safety and comfort in the future”, to meet the needs of automated driving and electrification.

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. These continuously monitor both tread depth and temperature and if the measured values are above or below predefined limits, the system alerts the driver. If anything penetrates the tread, a circuit in the tyre is closed, also triggering an immediate warning for the driver – faster than the systems used to date, which only warn the driver when the tyre pressure has already begun to fall.


In the future, the ContiSense system will feature additional sensors that can also be utilised individually. Thus, information about the road surface, such as its temperature or the presence of snow, can be sensed by the tyre and passed on to the driver. The data can be transmitted to the vehicle electronics or via bluetooth to a smartphone.

On the other hand, ContiAdapt combines microcompressors integrated into the wheel to adjust the tyre pressure with a variable-width rim. The system can thus modify the size of the contact patch, which under different road conditions is a decisive factor for both safety and comfort. Four different combinations allow perfect adaptation to wet, uneven, slippery and normal conditions. The system also permits very low tyre pressures of below 1 bar to be set, to help ease the vehicle out of a parking space in situations where driving can become difficult.

Steering innovation toward semi-autonomous EVs, Ohiobased Goodyear Tire & Rubber is equipping the Californiabased start-up Tesloop fleet with wireless sensor-equipped tyres to improve overall tyre management and maximise uptime for its growing fleet.


Tesloop is a city-to-city mobility service that exclusively operates a fleet of Tesla EVs that average up to 17,000 miles/ vehicle/month. Goodyear has been working with Tesloop since January 2017 to study the effect of autonomous technologies on tyres.

Chris Helsel, Goodyear’s Chief Technology Officer, explained that the wireless sensors continuously measure and record tyre temperature and pressure, which is paired with other vehicle data and connected to Goodyear’s cloud-based proprietary algorithms to enhance overall fleet operations and predict when the tyres need service or replacement.

“Goodyear’s effort with Tesloop builds on its successful commercialisation of Goodyear Proactive Solutions for truck fleets, using advanced telematics and predictive analytics technology to allow fleet operators to optimise fuel efficiency and precisely identify and resolve tyre-related issues before they happen,” Helsel said.

In addition to its fleet management offerings, Goodyear is also working with automotive makers to provide tyre information to vehicle control systems to enhance safety and performance.

Leveraging on connectivity for safe farm machine operations

The ever increasing world population requires efficient food production, and hence demands agricultural machinery to operate in their optimum.

Operating key farm machinery at the lowest safe pressure is a key challenge, according to Trelleborg Wheel Systems, which offers its ConnecTire to manage tyre pressure, and maintain the safety both of farm machine and operator.

The sensor-based smart wheel, which enables data sharing at multiple levels, reduces the risk of tyre slippage on the rim. It allows farmers to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) for safer and more efficient operations.


“Farm machinery is exposed to many variables throughout a working day, all of which can impact upon efficiency: ambient temperature, humidity and soil conditions. Being able to be in control of these allows farming operations to reduce inefficiencies,” said Piero Mancinelli, R&D Director at Trelleborg, adding that ConnecTire’s communications functions enable fingertip control.

Information pertaining to tyre pressure and temperature will be relayed to both tractor and farm mainframes via Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. Operators set their target tyre pressure and can then monitor how tyre pressure deviates from that target and act accordingly. Through an app, the ConnecTire automatically sends an alert for any required corrective action.

Moreover, an inbuilt GPS capability identifies the live position of the tractor helping to keep lone workers safe and even safeguarding the tyres and machine against risk of theft.

In addition, with the help of precision farming software, farm managers are able to track the number of machine passes over every square centimetre of land, helping to limit soil compaction and erosion as much as possible, to help soil to rapidly recover fertility and yield potential, says the Swedish firm.

Taking a spin on environment and safety

More manufacturers are adopting an environment-friendly culture and tyre makers are no exception. One of the more recent tyre innovations with vista for environment and safety is SRI’s Smart Tyre Concept, unveiled at a motor show held in October in Tokyo.

Under SRI’s Smart Tyre Concept, which consists of three major technology categories, a line-up of new tyres will be commercially produced.

In 2020, SRI said it plans to commence mass production of a new tyre that incorporates Performance Sustaining Technology to maintain the “as good as brand new” performance of a tyre for longer time; as well, the tyre maker may introduce a concept tyre that incorporates LCA, adopting new materials designed to enhance environmental performance throughout the entire lifecycle of a tyre, from raw materials and tyre production to shipping, usage and even recycling.

In 2023, another concept tyre, which incorporates its Active Tread Technology, will be introduced, and will demonstrate the same high level of performance regardless of whether driving on dry roads or under any other type of road condition.

SRI is not new to developing smart tyres, as it has previously introduced tyre technologies, such as the Sensing Core, which is able to detect slipperiness and other road conditions as well as tyre conditions such as wear, load and air pressure when its proprietary algorithm in the ECU (Engine Control Unit) in a vehicle’s brakes. Others are the Active Tread technology, which responds to changes in road conditions by actively changing the functionality of tread rubber to optimise performance for the current road surface and temperature; and Tyre Lifetime Simulation technology that is able to predict how performance will change as a tyre undergoes wear and tear.

Tapping a personalisation strategy

Adopting a “tailor-made” strategy, Italian tyre maker Pirelli’s take on a sensor-based coloured smart tyre is breaking the norm of plain black and metal tyres. At a motor show in Geneva, Pirelli showcased coloured editions of P Zero and Winter Sottozer tyres that feature special materials that act as protective barrier to maintain the vibrancy of the colour and avoid fading caused by time and use, without affecting performance. Moreover, the tyres are equipped with a monitoring system called Pirelli Connesso, which communicates with the driver via an app.


The Pirelli Connesso is a digital platform using a sensor integrated within Pirelli’s high end tyres to expand on the information already available from each car’s on-board computer. It provides data about the status, use and maintenance of every tyre, also offering localised and personalised services to provide bespoke mobility for the needs of the most demanding drivers.

The lightweight sensor is embedded in the tyre connected to the Pirelli Cloud and to a smartphone app, providing an interface that allows drivers to constantly communicate with tyres. The driver can also “personalise” their tyres, with the option of combining preferred colours and sensors.

Thus, these emerging developments of concepts for smart tyres are giving the green light for a smarter future of mobility.

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