An expert from Nokian Tires believes that smart tires will be commonplace within five years at the latest.
The automation of traffic is advancing, which also sets new requirements for car tires. When a car is not human-controlled, it must be able to individually observe driving conditions via sensors installed on tires, for example. The old and familiar safety characteristics, such as grip on ice and aquaplaning resistance, will be joined by technology that produces real-time data.
“If a car does not have an active driver to ensure that the tires are safe to use, safety needs to be measured in another way,” says Mika Penttilä, Head of Digital Technology for Nokian Tires.
Tire sensors can also monitor tire wear, inflation pressure, and the temperature inside the tire. An increase in the inside temperature may be an early indication of tire damage, for example, allowing it to be addressed before it causes a dangerous situation on the road.
“No matter how smart your car is, tires are the only link between the car and the road,” says Jukka Kasi, Senior Vice President of Products & Marketing for Nokian Tires.
The tire will tell you when it needs to be replaced
Smart tires also enable new tire-related service models that can be utilized even before we ever see robotic cars on the streets.
“In the future, tires will still continue to wear down and require replacement. However, purchasing a new tire set may become more effortless and unnoticeable than before,” Penttilä says.
As your tires wear down, sensors can notify the tire shop, which can then deliver a new set to you or even fit them on your vehicle.
The tire can relay the wear data to the onboard information system, which notifies the driver that the tires can be safely used for another three months. At the same time, the system instructs them to contact the nearest tire retailer and provides their contact information. This is similar to how current cars can notify the driver that they are running out of fuel and provide navigation guidance to the nearest service station.
Preventive maintenance becomes especially important as the popularity of shared-use vehicles increases – and especially once they start operating autonomously. This ensures that the riders will not be stranded.
Smart tires will appear before robotic cars
Different sensor and smart tire solutions are already available. TPMS tire pressure sensors are already well-known to consumers, for example, but more advanced technology has so far been reserved for professional use. For instance, Nokian Tures Intuitu is a concept for agriculture and contracting tires that combines tires with embedded sensors and a mobile app for data collection.
However, Jukka Kasi believes that solutions like Intuitu will become commonplace in consumer use – even before we ever see autonomous vehicles on the roads.
“Smart tires will first become common on electric vehicles, since they have large tires and lots of sensors and links to the tires. This will happen in about five years,” Kasi summarizes.