The concept of car technology has now become a part of our daily lives. We are seeing more and more cars equipped, in one way or another, with increasingly sophisticated computers, and not just in the form of infotainment—although that is an important part. No, what we have in mind now is the new frontier of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which encompasses a wide range of technologies, such as parking sensors, rear-view cameras, automotive night vision, and much more. Tyres, though, despite playing a crucial role in safety, are still seen as a purely mechanical part of the car, without the need for any sort of high tech (apart from pressure sensors). But this is about to change.
CYBER TYRE SYSTEM
Indeed, out of a collaboration between Pirelli and Politecnico di Milano comes a new technology that has been seeing great results for a few years now and will soon become a must-have accessory for your car. It’s the Pirelli Cyber Tyre system, which keeps drivers constantly up to date on all aspects of tyre health, including tread wear, tyre temperature, grip, and more. But this is just one of the functions that this technology will be bringing to our cars, and it’s not even the most amazing. These digital tyres will even be able to predict obstacles that we may encounter along the road and help to alter how the car behaves in order to ensure maximum levels of safety. This is a massive step forward when considering that, thus far, ADAS has been able to detect immediate dangers, but couldn’t predict them farther down the road. But tyres with the Cyber Tyre system make this feature one of their primary strengths.
Let’s look at an example in order to understand this concept better. Imagine you’re driving rather quickly during a winter storm. We all know the dangers that can arise, like ice on the road or puddles that can lead to aquaplaning. By monitoring temperature, the presence of water, and road and tyre conditions, and by interfacing with the car’s onboard computer, Cyber Tyre is able to warn the driver and even slow down the vehicle to as much as 30 km/h below the speed that could be dangerous. In other words, this system is able to accurately read, in real time, the current driving conditions and implement a progressive process of self-learning.
Cyber Tyres are equipped with special sensor developed exclusively for Pirelli. This sensor is actually a computer with the same processing power as a smartphone, but the whole device is only slightly larger than an ordinary one-euro coin. It includes a newly designed radio transmitter able to transmit the data gathered from the tyre directly to the other electronic devices in the car (after the appropriate modifications, of course). The sensor is able to gather data on both tyre temperature, pressure and type and on triaxial acceleration (i.e. the force of acceleration on three axes—longitudinal, lateral and radial—during contact of the tyre with the road surface), gathering data literally on every single rotation of the wheel.
TESTING CYBER TECHNOLOGIES
Does this mean that we will eventually be able to purchase Pirelli Cyber Tyre sensors on the aftermarket and mount them in our cars? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and not only because the sensor needs to be mounted inside the wheel. It is a scalable technology, but it needs to be adapted to each individual vehicle. Because the Cyber Tyre sensors need to communicate with a car’s onboard computers, it’s not so simple to standardise the interface. Then there’s the fact that each car manufacturer may, rightly, have different priorities in terms of the results they want to achieve. There are those who focus on driving comfort and those who focus on performance, just to give two examples. Cyber Tyre technology has been tested at speeds of up to 330 km/h without a drop in sensor performance, so it is a system that has to be tailor-made to meet the needs of a given car manufacturer.
The most important tests have been conducted on high-end cars because more powerful cars put tyres under greater stresses, so car manufacturers have a greater need to increase performance and driving comfort and generally enhance the driving experience. Soon, though, this system will also make its way to lower-end vehicles, in part because the per-unit cost to produce the system will not have an undue effect on the overall price of the car. For this reason, it is a system able to expand significantly, even in the world of motorsports (and testing has already begun on the Ferrari FXX K), and, with the help of a graphical interface, will even be able to help drivers drive more safely and more efficiently.
WHEEL EVOLUTION RUNS FAST
Is this just something being tested for the future or for concept cars? Absolutely not. Pirelli Cyber Tyre is being used today in the transport industry because trucks have simpler electronics than cars, making it easier for the sensors to interface with them. The current system uses a sensor inside each tyre that can transmit constant data on tyre pressure and temperature. After being sent to the truck’s onboard computer, this data can be used, for example, to eliminate the need to check the pressure of each tyre before heading out. Just think how many tyres a truck has and how long it would take to check the pressure of each tyre individually. Saving time in the trucking industry is at least as important as significant increases in safety or regular truck maintenance, and these are other areas in which Cyber Tyre can make an invaluable contribution. And that’s not all. The data gathered can also be sent to the head office for further processing in order to make fleet management even more efficient.
So, wheel evolution runs fast: in the near future cyber cars will be popular amongst people of every age. Provided with a technological equipment and connected with a mobile platform, you will receive on your mobile phone specific information about miles, wheels, stability control, tread depth and temperature for a safer and safer drive and better in terms of money and ecology.
If you think technology often causes problems, don’t worry: customer care will always be available for any kind of problem may occur and, in any case, hi-tech runs fast too, to improve and guarantee the best experience.
The future of the smart tyre is here.