Smart tires also detect when traction is being lost in some situations. Pirelli's CyberTire could do this on wet roads by measuring, as the tire rolls, how much its tread is flexing against the road surface. If the tread isn't flexing much, that means it's riding on water and is losing contact with the solid road surface.
Maybe you’d stop letting them get under-inflated and worn out. Or they could warn you about a nail in the tread that, in a couple days, will make the tire pressure warning light come on. They might even help you drive better, stop sooner and get better gas mileage.
Smart tire technology like this is already in use, with tire companies adding special sensors to certain tires. And, eventually, these technologies will become widespread, said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at the online retailer Tire Rack, because the information tires can provide is so critical.
“I absolutely foresee that happening,” he said, “If, for no other reason, than that his is the groundwork for fully autonomous driving.”
Self-driving cars will have enough random variables to contend with without unexpected tire problems, he said. The more warning there is of a potential problem, like an air leak or worn out treads, the better. A self-driving car also won’t have an experienced human driver’s feel for when the road surface is slippery or a car is getting close to skidding. Computerised tire technologies will be able to detect impending loss of traction more quickly and accurately than the stability control and traction control systems used on most cars today.
While smart tire technologies are available, they’re mostly used on very expensive performance tires or in fleets of work trucks with fleet managers trying to save every penny.
McLaren’s recently unveiled $225,000 Artura supercar will come equipped with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tires that are embedded with computer chips. Those chips will send information about air pressure and temperature in the tires to computers in the car, which will help McLaren owners seeking to extract the best performance on the race track.
Changes in temperatures and air pressure can greatly effect how tires, and therefore cars, perform on a track. Cold tires might not grip as well as warmer ones. Meanwhile, tires that are overinflated will have less contact area with the asphalt while under-inflated ones won’t be firm enough to provide good control.
French tire maker Michelin
offers Track Connect 2, which
is an app on the driver’s cell phone to communicate directly with sensors that can be installed inside the tires. The app might recommend the driver increase or decrease tire air pressures or it
could warn of leaks. The tires that come standard on the new Porsche 911 GT3
, for instance, work with this system.