Connected Tyres - where old meets new to drive fleet performance
Tyres are one of the oldest (if not the oldest) parts of a transport vehicle that have existed in their present form for over 100 years. In terms of technological advancement, the connected tyres of today are alien lifeforms compared to their predecessors and continue to impact the safety and performance of fleets.
Sensors, connected fleet technology, AI, algorithms, 3D printing, IoT, living moss, and dandelions are all being used by tyre manufacturers today to create products that ensure vehicles operate safely in any conditions and that the environment can be free from rotting rubber.
Through sensors and connected technology, tyres can inform drivers and fleet managers, in real-time, about road and driving conditions. They can bring data into management systems that notify councils and municipalities about road conditions and where potholes or rough, unsafe surfaces exist. They can self-repair and even change tread, on the fly, to match road and weather conditions.
Many of these new tyre technologies have only shown up in concept products, such as the morphing tread, 3D printed tyres made from dandelions or the living moss tyre that emits oxygen as it travels. It’s unlikely these will be released in commercial applications in the near future but there is plenty to talk about in terms of connected tyres. Let’s take a look.
From tyre monitoring to full-blown asset management
With its strapline: “The Future in Motion”, one would expect Continental to be at the forefront of connected tyre development. Earlier this month, the company announced the launch of an advanced package to its tyre management solution ContiConnect. The latest version lets fleets record additional data such as tread depth and condition. This doesn’t seem that advanced compared to some technological developments but for Continental, it’s yet another step in the direction away from pure tyre monitoring to asset management.
“The Advanced package now lets customers capitalise on all the benefits of tire management,” explains Dushyanth Rajagopal, Product Manager Digital Solutions at Continental. With ContiConnect 2.0 Advanced, every tire can be tracked individually. Each tire has a digital twin in the system complete with article number, meaning the customer always knows which tire is fitted on which vehicle and in which position. The newly developed second-generation ContiConnect sensor additionally relays information on distance travelled, allowing fleets to keep an eye on tire mileage at all times. There’s also a smartphone app to make tyre checking easier and to alert drivers to increase or decrease pressure.
Road condition alerts
Earlier this month, Bridgestone also introduced Bridgestone Road Conditions, a solutions portfolio designed to provide valuable insights from aggregated and anonymised data from Webfleet-connected vehicles.
“Bridgestone Road Conditions can help increase road safety and comfort by providing real-time data insights on road damage that allow preventive road maintenance, infrastructure planning and optimise traffic flow,” said Jan-Maarten de Vries, CEO of Bridgestone Mobility Solutions.
Michelin (among others including Continental and Pirelli) has developed a tyre specifically for electric cars. The Michelin Pilot Sport EV and e-Primacy claim to optimise the performance and increase the battery range of EVs. The transfer of weight during the acceleration of an EV is more intense than an ICE, which can cause increased wear on normal tyres. These tyres also reduce noise inside the vehicle.
And because 20% of tyres are scrapped due to punctures or blowouts, Michelin is also working with logistics player DHL trialling puncture-proof tyres in Singapore. This is based on the airless tyres concept, which uses a structured mesh within the tyre rather than compressed air to maintain robustness and safety.
“Michelin UPTIS is a major breakthrough innovation in the tyre field. This is a result of some fifty patents linked to the tyre’s structure and high-tech materials. It demonstrates Michelin’s capacity for innovation in favour of safer mobility that is better for the environment. We are delighted that DHL is trusting Michelin to equip its fleet with the very first Michelin UPTIS tyres, marketed one year ahead of schedule.” Bruno De Feraudy, Director of OEM activities for the Michelin Group, said in a press release.
Tyres are where the vehicle meets the road and they can provide a lot of information about how it’s performing, being driven, road conditions, weather events and much more. When this data is captured and connected, it can inform fleet operations positively.
Main image: Shutterstock. In article images, Continental's smartphone app for ContiConnect 2.0. Michelin's UPTIS on a DHL van in Singapore.