Indirect TPMS could be the key to intelligent tires

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The progression from inserting a basic chip into the tire, to the smart tire, and on to the intelligent tire, has been discussed widely over the last 10 years and particularly by Federico Mancosu in recent editions of TTI. The disappointing lack of real progress over this relatively long period of time, as compared with computer technology developments for example, could be put down to the usual reluctance toward change shown by the automotive industry. But it may just be that the industry has got its timing right.

The technology to insert chips into tires to record all the tire sidewall details is currently available and it is surely a simple matter to add distance traveled, tire age and a measurement of tire fatigue based on running temperature, pressure history and mileage. To have all this data as a print-out on the annual vehicle inspection seems a more logical approach to tire safety than the regulators have managed to date.

A standardized tire scanning system would give greater information and be more comfortable than being on one’s hands and knees checking the usually unreadable tire sidewall lettering.

If, or when, tread depth is added, we will be at a stage where we may consider the tire as a self-regulating safety item, not based solely on its new condition, but through its service life. This is a much more practical approach to regulation, I believe, and one that is readily achievable.

The conflict between the direct and indirect approaches to TPMS seems to be becoming resolved with the indirect system having improved its vehicle dynamics software and being increasingly favored by OEMs and in the aftersales/service sectors.

It is to be remembered that the indirect system is based on individual tire revolutions and the dynamic forces applied to the vehicle during the various operations in service conditions.

This development is of particular interest because it appears that progress in the development of the intelligent tire has slowed because of the need to insert sensors into the tire and install the appropriate electronics required for transmission of data.

We are able to collect the relevant data from the tire as related to safety in service at least annually, but we are apparently unable to achieve a reliable intelligent tire; that is, one that can assess the tire-to-road friction and perhaps be proactive in actual road use. However, with the advances in understanding

the vehicle’s response to tires in, for example, the monitoring of inflation pressure, it would seem that this approach could be taken further to actually assess tire-to-road friction and the tire’s structural integrity. It takes little imagination to see that the intelligent tire may be achieved through the vehicle rather than through the tire itself.

So, back to the timing of these developments. Research is showing that the wireless car is achievable. The weight and cost saving of removing the vehicle’s wiring loom can be readily appreciated. Running the car through wi-fi and/or Bluetooth software technology fits perfectly with indirect TPMS and is an easier methodology to achieve the intelligent tire. In effect, the car becomes the computer and, as such, would be capable of reading many tire properties.

I appreciate that in these Last Words I have entered into a little speculation. However, I believe I am not alone in this line of thinking, as witnessed by the attendance at the Vehicle-and-Tire Systems short course at the last Tire Technology Conference.

I would also direct interested parties to a careful study of the presentation made by Bernd Schuchhart of Dunlop SRI during the conference’s first session.

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