From your experience, how much collaboration is there between tire and road experts?
There probably isn’t as much collaboration between tire and road experts as there could be. There has been some knowledge sharing at industry conferences. In general, however, tire engineers will develop tire designs based on the reality of various road surfaces that are used daily by drivers. From asphalt to cement to different levels of wear, road conditions can vary greatly from city to city and road to road. One common area of research between the two industries is noise reduction, as noise pollution continues to be a growing challenge.
How can the needs of tire makers be aligned with the needs of road makers?
As research into material development and usage continues, both with tires and road construction, sharing these developments at industry conferences and similar venues can help align the requirements. Joint research projects on subjects such as noise reduction, rolling resistance and sensor development may also provide opportunities for learning and development.
In testing (lab and road), what types of surfaces are typically used?
The tire industry has developed procedures for testing on engineered belts and surfaces to provide a standard for benchmarking and performance measurements for rolling resistance, tread wear and force and moment testing. These have been developed by using standard grit constructions on the belts to simulate a road surface, providing tire manufacturers with a standard surface from which to measure performance.
Are these representative enough of real roads and how can they be improved?
The industry has used this data to successfully predict steering and handling performance, rolling resistance and tread wear for many years. Because there is so much variability in road surfaces, using this standard surface removes a variable from testing so that manufacturers can focus their development on improving tire performance.
As noted, real roads have so much variability that it may be impossible to truly account for every road surface in testing and development. Small improvements could potentially be made to adjust the lab test surfaces by incorporating more random dispersions of grit to simulate certain road constructions.
When will it be possible to develop measuring systems that enable the parallel assessment of tire performance and road characterization?
In some respects, these systems are already available. Trailer, car or truck systems have been designed to measure the coefficient of friction for the development of airport runways and roads.
Runways, being a controlled and relatively small area, are tightly evaluated to ensure that there’s enough grip to ensure the safety of aircraft taking off and landing. We utilize similar methods to measure snow and ice traction on tires at our winter proving grounds.
While these systems are used for standard road materials as well, the variability in road conditions around the world makes this a difficult measure to use when qualifying tires.
More on tire-road interaction in the October issue of Tire Technology International.
October 13, 2016