The future of automotive technology is one of the most hotly anticipated areas of technological development. There’s a constant stream of articles and commentators remarking on industry developments such as autonomous technology, yet surprisingly little is being said on the future of tyres. This is surprising given they are so important to our experience as road users. Our tyres affect everything from road safety to driving performance, and the development of new tyre technology will help to redefine the way we drive. The history of tyres has shown us the development of tyre pressure monitoring systems and other innovations that have helped to expand the usefulness of our tyres. Electricity is increasingly becoming bonded to modern tyre manufacturing.
As Herman Vereecken, the Manager of Communication Strategy and Deployment at the Goodyear Innovation Centre suggests, “for 100 years tyres have been material and mechanical, but now we’re getting an electrical dimension’, in other words, ‘electrical components in tyres is the future’. Below we present the most promising technologies for tyres in the future.
Smart tyres have been on the mind of designers for quite some time, but no ones come close to realizing the design until relatively recently. The Tokyo Motor Show 2017 presented a number of Smart Tyre Concepts from manufacturers like Sumitomo Rubber Industries. SRI’s design incorporated a sensing core, active tread and performance sustaining technology to alter tyre pressure as needed. The sensing core turns SRI’s tyres into sensors, which can analyze road surfaces and measure any wear and tear. Likewise, the active tread changes the functionality of the rubber in line with the current road surface.
SRI is not alone in their development of such technology either. Competitor Continental announced their ContiAdapt adjustable wheel concept earlier this year. The ContiAdapt adjustable wheel allows the user to control the amount of rubber contacting the road and varies car tyre pressure according to the road conditions. If the road were icy and slippery, the tyre would expand so that the vehicle could grip it more easily. Such technology will give drivers much better handling on slippery surfaces and increase the control they have over their vehicles.
3D Printed Tyres
Whilst not completely separate from the concept of smart tyres, 3D tyres will redefine the way that automotive vehicles are manufactured and maintained. Industry giant Michelin is in the process of designing an all-in-one tyre made from biodegradable materials with a rubber coat that can be restored as the tyre is worn down. The tyre would be 3D printed from a variety of recycled materials. Michelin plans to use scraps from woodchips, organic peels and straw to top up the rubber tread when it is damaged. The use of 3D technology will make it much more convenient to keep our cars on the road at a fraction of the cost that’s needed for repairs now.
One of the more interesting contemporary developments in terms of tyre technologies comes in the form of run-flat tyres. These tyres are capable of running even when punctured. Many automakers have begun to transition to run-flat tyres in an attempt to increase road safety and vehicle durability. As an added bonus, they’ve also helped to decrease fuel consumption as well. When a conventional tyre is punctured the surface begins to collapse in on itself and becomes caught between the wheel and the road. This destroys the tyre and adversely affects the wheel (killing any hope of safe driving!). It will be interesting to see how run-flat tyres have laid the groundwork for more durable tyres down the line, which preserve driving safety.
If one thing is for certain, it’s that Vereecken’s suggestion that electrical tyres are the future is undoubtedly true. The potential of smart and 3D tyres could completely overhaul the automotive industry. This technology will also make everyday driving much safer and convenient. In a practical sense, we’ll be able to restore tyres without having to pay an extortionate amount of money. More dramatically, we’ll be moving closer to building vehicles that are intelligent from the ground up.
About the author:
Giles Kirkland is a car tyres expert at Oponeo and a dedicated automotive writer researching on new technological solutions. His interests revolve around the revolutionary technologies used in modern cars. Giles passionately shares his knowledge and experience with the automotive and technology enthusiasts across the globe.