Another step towards smarter vehicles
From futuristic prototypes to tangible applications, the tire industry is increasing its investments in technological innovation
Modern vehicles, cars as well as commercial vehicles and heavy trucks, are increasingly connected, both on-board and to the Internet. The reasons for this are many and closely intertwined. Knowing where a vehicle is and how far it has to travel to reach its destination, for example, can help optimise consumption, taking real time traffic into account. This possibility, already important as things are due to increasingly stringent emission constraints, will be crucial for battery-powered electric cars. Another possible use comes from BMW: its eDrive Zone function automatically switches its plug-in hybrids to electric as the vehicle enters a Limited Traffic Zone.
Connected is better
Digital services can interact with on-board systems, for example, by signalling ice or slippery roads to "alert" the vehicle's Adas systems.
In this constant exchange of information, though, tires have been relegated to producing data only through Tpms sensors. No small thing, mind you, because with their data it is possible to know the tire pressure and temperature in real time. In addition, Adas systems could be even more efficient and increase safety if they had real-time information, for example, on road surface grip and tread thickness. Car sharing fleets already need accurate tire information, and even more so tomorrow's autonomous vehicles. This explains the interest of the big names in the business, who have more or less all presented concept cars and specialized products already in use on our roads (and racetracks).
Real time Data for competitions
Michelin, for example, has been offering “smart” racing tires for some time. The company has informed us that, starting this year, the entire Pilot Sport Cup 2 range will be replaced with a connected version, called Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect. This change translates into a significant expansion of the available versions, which will increase to 47 different sizes (covering 95% of the market) for wheels from 17 to 21 inches. The system includes a kit consisting of 4 sensors, a receiver that collects data, an adapter for cigarette lighter/Usb socket and a Track Connect app. The receiver collects the data and sends it, via Bluetooth, to a mobile phone. The whole set up generates data that, collected and interpreted by the app, allows one to view the pressure and temperature of the tires, detects if the tires are working efficiently and highlights how the behaviour of the car (neutral, oversteer or understeer) varies according to changing pressure and temperature. The data gives indications on the optimal inflation pressure, which can then be shared. Michelin has set up a similar solution - which signals with a colour code whether the tires are operating in their optimal range - for rallies as well, and includes its own specific app. The latter, called My Rally Engineer, contains several rallies and their stages and can even estimate tire wear. Furthermore, Formula E, for which Michelin is the sole supplier, adopts this system in a similar way.
Another big name committed to smart tires is Pirelli, which launched its Cyber Tire 5G in November 2019. This is one of the results of the Pirelli Cyber project, launched in 2005 and which makes use of many collaborations with car manufacturers and research centres. This great work has led to a profound rethinking of the tire. Cyber Tire, in fact, manages to interact with the vehicle by providing information on the condition of the road, which, as mentioned above, is very useful for Adas systems. Thus, these advanced driver assistance systems can be adapted to predict and prevent a number of potentially dangerous situations. Pirelli's press officers told us that Pirelli is currently evaluating, along with several car manufacturers, the opportunity to integrate this system and therefore, the time horizons perfectly reflect the development time in the OE area, which can be quantified in 3-5 years depending on the complexity of the functions required. Not exactly a short period of time but consistent with the integration of components designed to enter "deep" inside a car’s system, such as controllers and data buses.
Data for everyone
The revolution, however, is not over: a future is emerging in which, thanks to the potential of 5G communication systems, tires will become part of the universe of mobile communications. This is an even broader field of communication that will involve the entire transport ecosystem. In order to carry out high-level experimentation, Pirelli has also become a partner of the 5G Automotive Association to better develop products and services for the future of mobility.
The Cyber Tire 5G is part of the V2X, Vehicle to X technology, as it collects data and sends these not only to on-board ADAS devices, but also to other vehicles, infrastructure and even pedestrians. Its sensors will be able to give information on tire model, dynamic load, mileage and road grip. This data, thanks to the very low latency of the 5G network, reaches the cloud and can be sent to other vehicles and, for example, to variable message panels. An icy stretch of road, for example, will be detected automatically and the information will be shared with other connected vehicles and, thanks to message panels, even to older vehicles without a connection.
Regarding the system with Track Adrenaline connected tires, we know that it arrived on the market during 2019 and has had very positive feedback ever since.
The system includes P Zero Trofeo R tires equipped with sensors, a box with precision GPS and a smartphone app. The box collects the wheel’s sensor signals and sends them to a smartphone together with the telemetry data from the GPS. Hence, track days fans (these tires were designed with racing in mind) can experience the marked "formative" value of Track Adrenaline. The system provides a post-session analysis that allows one to understand where improvements can be made and how to do it, even comparing different sessions.
Fleets in the palm of one’s hand
This platform has demonstrated a high potential for further developments on several fronts. One example is the excellent response of track event organizers who have seen in Track Adrenaline a technology capable of increasing the offer and value of track days. Pirelli has therefore developed a dedicated software that involves drivers in activities that are not competitive but rather focused on driving precision and ability. In 2020 the range of Trofeo R tires will be expanded to allow more cars to take advantage of Track Adrenaline in its full configuration.
Other Pirelli solutions already in operation are the recent Cyber Fleet Smart and Cyber Fleet Gate, recent evolutions of the proven Cyber Fleet system. The use of sensors in tires, mobile phone apps and a specific cloud, make it possible to check the condition of the tires at any time and place, and signal whether any truck should display some anomalies. If the sensors are installed on new tires of any brand, preventive maintenance will become a real possibility.