A tyre's role in the future of mobility

At the FIA's 25th annual Mobility Conference, Pirelli – a major sponsor – will be talking about how tyre development has a role to play in the future of mobility

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The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Mobility Conference 2017 in Tokyo brings together many of the brightest and most visionary people in the automotive and technology industries to predict the road ahead for the fascinating and fast-changing world of transport.

A tyre's role in the future of mobility
A tyre's role in the future of mobility

From the FIA's president, Jean Todt, and its ASNs and ACNs – the 220-plus affiliated national automobile clubs – to United Nations representatives and major OEMs, the attendees will assess a complex future that will see a paradigm shift towards electric engines, connectedness, autonomous vehicles and increased car sharing.

The challenge is to fully understand the disruptive impact of a complex array of interrelated new technologies – both digital and material – so they can be exploited to shape a mobility of the future that is increasingly safe, sustainable and accessible. 

The Pirelli vision
“The conference is a great arena where we can talk about new mobility,” explains Filippo Bettini, Pirelli's chief officer of sustainability and risk governance, who is giving a speech in Tokyo. “It is also an opportunity to further our own agendas as the automobile clubs are very active in a variety of activities, from promoting safety and tourism to offering specialist analysis and advice about car components.”

All components, from engines to batteries, are being designed and re-designed in the pursuit of greater performance and sustainability. The tyre, Pirelli believes, is vital for three significant reasons. It is the only part that is purchased independently of the car manufacturer, its design has a direct impact on all-round performance, including safety and environmental efficiency, and it provides the only touch-point between the vehicle and the ground.

“We want to leverage the central role of the tyre and increase comfort and safety for the driver and other road users, including pedestrians, while also helping the planet,” Bettini adds. “We believe the development of the tyre will have a key role in shaping the future of mobility.”

The tyre of the future
The goal is to use new materials and digital technology to improve tyres in two ways. First, Pirelli can develop new compounds for its tyres by adding new ingredients that change their characteristics, reducing rolling resistance and noise while also improving safety and handling. This will help develop products for electric cars, for example, which deliver greater torque than traditional cars.

Second, Pirelli can provide new and more sophisticated digital products and services. At the heart of this proposition is the innovative cyber tyre, which has a small sensor embedded in the tread, and the supporting Pirelli Connesso digital platform. It allows the driver to receive real-time information about a tyre's status, including temperature, pressure, vertical load and mileage, on a smartphone app.

Automatic alerts are sent if the tyre pressure drops, for example, or a wear limit is reached. Incorporating a GPS system, the app could then locate a local garage and book an appointment – a service that boosts safety and saves money for both the leisure user and the business fleet manager.

The platform gives a valuable insight into the growing power of connectedness. It already connects driver to tyre, but will increasingly connect drivers to each other, which has clear safety applications. If a cyber-tyre sensor detects ice, for example, then it can inform other drivers. “By sharing information about incipient road conditions, we can offer a new level of predictability, warning road users about conditions they are about to face,” Bettini says. 

Travel well
New mobility is about more than the effect that new technology is having on the vehicle; it is also about looking at mobility in its broadest sense, and that includes our attitudes to other forms of transport – including car-sharing and the bicycle – and to the highest level of service.

With urban populations forecast to rise dramatically, the bicycle, which is environmentally friendly and perfect for improving individual accessibility, especially over shorter distances, will have a central role to play in helping traffic management and future mobility.

That is one of the reasons why Pirelli has launched its Velo collection of cycle tyres. “The bicycle is good for accessibility, but it is also good for leisure, health and sport – all areas that Pirelli is involved in,” Bettini adds. “It can help introduce younger consumers who do not own cars or buy car tyres to the Pirelli brand.”

New mobility, then, includes everything from traditional pedal power and the simple bicycle to electric motors and driverless cars. It is an exciting challenge – and opportunity – for automotive manufacturers. “In the future, Pirelli will not just sell physical products but also a package of related services for both the leisure and the business customer,” says Bettini. “The Pirelli vision is that the new mobility will be increasingly safe for both people and the planet.”