Miles ahead

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Jaap Leendertse, manager for PCR and SUV tires at Sumitomo Rubber EuropeJaap Leendertse, manager for PCR and SUV tires at Sumitomo Rubber Europe, discusses the key elements of the company’s Smart Tyre Concept introduced at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show in Japan.

An autonomous vehicle will need a lot more information from the tire. When the driver normally reacts to the surroundings (e.g. the weather) the vehicle will instead rely on sensors, one of which will be the tire. As such, we are working on providing more information to the system, so that the vehicle can adapt its driving style to the environmental conditions. In addition to that, as there will no longer be intuitive interaction, we have to ensure that both the tire knows what vehicle it is fitted to and that the vehicle knows what tire is fitted.

We are already using our 4D Nano technology to improve the life of the tire as we have been able to better understand the wear mechanism and are able to reduce wear without too many compromises. This means we can offer the same or even better lifetime with less material.

Even for autonomous driving, a tire with good handling will remain important. Where a good performing tire will run straight and tackle bends smoothly, a tire with bad handling performance will always need corrections. A customer, even if he is not driving will notice the continuous corrections of the system and will eventually learn to mount ‘better’ tires. For fully autonomous vehicles, we expect people will understand sooner or later the difference in quality.

SRI has begun suppling its Gyroblade tire for application on golf carts where they offer low maintenance and the comfort of a pneumatic tire. The Gyroblade is also ideal for applications where the possibility of punctures is very high. SRI expects that introduction will be initially more on low speed vehicles as the tires on these vehicles typically need high inflation pressures and offer less comfort. We are running tests in several application areas including PCR vehicles.

In terms of tire development, today, the human interface (test driver) is capable of obtaining large quantities of information. A ‘robot’ will deliver only numbers. This will impact on how we design, but also on what data we are looking at. A lot of our development capacity will focus on how to improve communication between the tire and the vehicle.

The amount of testing will not reduce because we will have to test that the tire is even more robust as there will no longer be a direct human interface. We will have to work on recognition and to test this recognition – some of the processes we have started on our sensing core program. Improvement of safety and sustainability will continue. Even today we test the tire to its limit, though in future this data will be used as a ‘number input’ for the vehicle.

In engineering, trends repeat and where wider tires have offered a better limit in driving, we can imagine that future improvements could also bring back the wider tire as the ultimate solution.

Intelligent products have not yet been fully introduced in the automotive industry, and only when consumers recognize the benefits – which can vary from information on road and tire condition to changing the performance parameters of the tire – will this happen, enabling a huge improvement on the performance of a variety of tires.

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