Tires could be about to become more intelligent

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Two tire technology concepts have been developed by Continental, which could bring vehicle dynamics benefits in terms of road safety and ride comfort. Both concepts enable continuous monitoring of tire condition, as well as situation-matched adaptation of tire performance characteristics to prevailing road conditions.

The first concept technology, named ContiSense, is based on the development of electrically conductive rubber compounds that enable electric signals to be sent from a sensor in the tire to a receiver in the car. Rubber-based sensors continuously monitor both tread depth and temperature. If the measured values are above or below predefined limits, the system alerts the driver. If anything penetrates the tread, a circuit in the tire is closed, which also triggers an immediate warning for the driver. According to Continental, this warning is issued faster than the systems used to date, which only warn the driver when the tire pressure has already begun to fall.

Continental’s engineers predict that in the future, the ContiSense system will also feature additional sensors which can also be utilized individually. Information about the road surface, such as its temperature or the presence of snow, can be ‘felt’ by the tire and that information passed on to the driver via the vehicle electronics or via bluetooth to a smartphone.

Meanwhile the second technology, ContiAdapt, combines micro-compressors integrated into the wheel to adjust the tire pressure with a variable-width rim. The system can modify the size of the contact patch, with four combinations designed to allow adaptation to wet, uneven, slippery and normal conditions.

For example, a smaller contact patch combined with high tire pressure would make for low rolling resistance and energy-efficient driving on smooth, dry roads. By contrast, the combination of a larger contact patch with lower tire pressure would deliver grip on slippery roads. The system also permits very low tire pressures of below 1 bar to be set, to help ease the vehicle out of a parking space in deep snow, for example, or traverse a stretch of black ice.

Continental has also created a concept tire design that enables the benefits of both ContiSense and ContiAdapt to be leveraged. The tire design features three different tread zones for driving on wet, slippery or dry surfaces. Depending on the tire pressure and rim width, different tread zones would be activated and the tire would adapt the required ‘footprint’ in each case according to the prevailing road conditions or driver preferences.

Continental considers these technology concepts to be promising solutions for the mobility of the future, as tires evolve to meet the needs of automated driving and electrification.

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About Author

Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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