SMART TYRES Reinventing the wheel: smart tyres and IoT
A defective tyre is one the most common causes of road traffic accidents in Europe. In the UK alone, in 2018, there were 459 reported accidents caused by illegal, defective, or under-inflated tyres. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that 35% of accidents caused by vehicle malfunction are due to tyre issues.
However, the good news is that several tyre manufacturers are developing ‘smart’ tyres that use Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to deliver performance updates to fleet operators.
For example, Continental recently launched its ContiConnect platform, which digitally monitors the performance of tyres for commercial fleets. As well as anticipating safety issues, regular status updates enable fleet operators to reduce maintenance costs and increase fuel efficiency.
Similarly, Pirelli recently developed its own ‘cyber tyre’, that interacts with the 5G network. Internal sensors are used to detect road conditions that enable cars to adapt their driving assistance systems accordingly.
What is a connected tyre and how does it work?
A connected tyre looks the same as a standard vehicle tyre, but it’s embedded with small sensors that gather data about road conditions and tyre performance. The data is continually transmitted to fleet operators, who can process the tyre data to improve the vehicle’s safety on the road.
The information can be used to schedule vehicle maintenance, improve fuel economy, reduce carbon emissions and extend the tyre’s life. In ContiConnect tyres, for example, sensors are placed on the inner liner of the tyre to measure temperature and pressure. A ‘gateway’ is then installed at the premises of the fleet operator in a position that it will be passed by vehicles.
The gateway connects the sensors to Continental’s software platform, which collects the data transmitted by the vehicle. The data can then be analysed by the fleet operator through a dashboard.
Using IoT to increase tyre monitoring
Smart Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) use IoT connections from sensors that are embedded in a tyre’s lining. The data gathered from each tyre is sent to a central computer system through a wireless connection.
The IoT-connected sensors monitor the pressure and temperature of each tyre to detect defects that can cause blowouts, slow leaks, high temperatures, rapid air loss and tyre wear.
Using IoT-powered TPMS greatly improves the accuracy of tyre monitoring. When combined with smart data collection, IoT monitoring systems improve vehicle safety, reduce carbon emissions and enhance the driving experience. As well as providing alerts when a defect is found, TPMS can also provide detailed visual data in real-time.
For example, a driver may start their vehicle and be informed via a smartphone app that one of their tyres is due to reach the legal thread limit, prompting them to arrange a tyre replacement.
Improving fuel efficiency
According to Michelin, a tyre that is 20% under-inflated returns 20% less mileage before it needs to be replaced. This equates to a loss of 5,000 miles on a tyre that offers a mileage of 25,000 miles.
Although private car owners may not notice a significant change in their fuel economy, fleet owners will. For commercial fleets that travel hundreds of kilometres every day, a 20% loss in mileage can result in a huge loss in fuel savings.
Smart tyres provide fleets with real-time information on pressure and temperature levels, eliminating the need for regular maintenance checks. If a tyre does present as being under-inflated, technicians can schedule maintenance when the vehicle arrives at its destination.
Reporting on road conditions
In addition to monitoring pressure and temperature, smart tyres can also report on road conditions. For example, if TPMS data shows that a particular stretch of road is noticeably reducing tyre pressure, local governments can take steps to address any issues.
In the meantime, satellite navigation systems can be updated and suggest an alternative route that would offer better fuel economy. The information gathered by TPMS can prove useful to road maintenance departments and can help identify potholes and bumps.
The future of smart tyres
A recent innovation in smart tyres is Goodyear’s ‘Oxygene’ prototype, a tyre that features living moss growing within the sidewall. The tyre’s open structure and smart tread design ‘absorb and circulate moisture from the road surface, allowing photosynthesis to occur and therefore releasing oxygen into the air.’
Although it may be some time before our cars produce oxygen rather than carbon, the smart tyre industry will continue to innovate into the future. Ultimately, smart tyres improve the safety of our roads. They offer an enhanced driving experience, reduce carbon emissions and offer better fuel economy.