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Conti Adapt and Conti Sense, strides into the future



Amid new “smart” tires and state-of-the-art composite materials, Continental keeps well ahead of automotive trends

Nicodemo Angì

Loquacious and skilled in communicating even through the net; this is how we could describe most modern vehicles with cars in the forefront. Indeed modern cars are offering a growing number of connected services, ranging from the ability to surf the net through a smartphone, to contacting directly and autonomously assistance services, traffic reports and weather forecasts in real time.

This comprehensive exchange of information with the outside world is a further step forward in the sort of “dialogic” approach that is already all too common within most vehicles. Data bus systems, among which the CAN is by far the most famous, have long since replaced traditional electrical systems, which had become insufficient to manage the relentless flow of information that many components and switchboards exchange incessantly.


Constant Dialogue

In such a crowded network, tires have been ignored, in fact, information from TPMS systems are vastly outnumbered in number and frequency by, for example, the injection system.

This gap, however, is being progressively narrowed down and it seems that, soon enough, tires will also collect and transmit loads of cloud-based information.

And it is precisely in this context that Continental introduced its new advanced tires some time ago only to exhibit them once again during the Geneva salon, a traditional appointment for the whole automotive sector.

The technologies involved here are named ContiSense and ContiAdapt, where the first one is entrusted with collecting significant amount of data.

ContiSense is based on the development of electrically conductive rubber compounds that enable electric signals to travel from a sensor embedded in the tire to a receiver located in the car. Rubber-based sensors continuously monitor both tread depth and temperature. If the measured values are above or below predefined limits, the system alerts the driver at once. If anything penetrates the tread, a circuit in the tire is closed thus triggering an immediate warning for the driver


I know it all

This system guarantees a quicker response time when compared to traditional pressure sensors: if the object remains in the hole, for example, the pressure loss could be very slow and the alarm will come with a certain delay.

A future evolution of the ContiSense system includes additional sensors to detect the temperature of the road surface or the presence of snow, and as this information is "felt" by the tire it is immediately sent to the vehicle’s electronic system and / or to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

As Marco Vellone of Continental Italy kindly explained, once collected, the data can be sent to other onboard components, such as ContiAdapt (we'll talk about it soon), and to a cloud, to be shared with other cars. This will be particularly important for self-driving vehicles, which require environmental information in real time.

The idea behind ContiAdapt appears even more radical and is perhaps a bit more complicated to implement, given that it is a "system" that combines micro-compressors integrated into the wheel to adjust the tire pressure with a variable-width rim.


Changing tires

What makes this system so unique is quite obvious: a different combination of  rim-width and tire pressure can modify the size of the contact patch, a decisive factor for both safety and comfort.

Four different width-pressure combinations allow perfect adaptation to wet, uneven, slippery and normal conditions. A smaller contact patch combined with high tire pressure will greatly reduce rolling resistance and enhance energy-efficient driving on smooth, dry roads. By contrast, the combination of a larger contact patch with lower tire pressure delivers ideal grip on slippery roads. Very low tire pressures, for example below 1 bar, help ease the vehicle out of deep snow or move over a dangerous stretch of black ice.

Both concepts are integrated in a single tire-wheel unit that benefits from both systems. The tread pattern features three different areas designed for driving on wet, slippery or dry surfaces. Depending on the tire pressure and rim-width, different tread zones are activated and the concept tire adopts the most suitable “footprint” in each case, adapting to the prevailing road conditions or driver preferences.


Ready for the future

As confirmed by Vellone, Continental imagined Conti Sense and Adapt as the perfect solutions for tomorrow’s mobility, ready as they are to welcome automated driving and electrification. Low rolling resistance, for example, makes it possible for electric cars to cover greater distances on a single charge.

Using the sensors available, the Road Condition Observer can obtain information on the conditions of the road surface. "This knowledge allows us to adapt the advanced driving assistance systems to prevalent road conditions at any time. For example, to avoid an imminent collision, the automatic emergency braking system must be activated much earlier on a wet road than on a dry road."

The ability to collect data and send it to a cloud, enhances the system’s active predictive safety: if a Road Condition Observer detects the presence of ice and sends this information to both ContiAdapt, which adjusts the footprint of the tire, and the cloud, all following vehicles will be able to adapt the contact patch well in advance, reducing the risk of accidents down to a minimum. Using the sophisticated sensors of automated driving systems, vehicles will be in the position to "detect" the current road conditions and adjust the tires accordingly: luxury cars already make extensive use of ADAS sensors to adjust their suspensions, but if the same can be applied to tires as well, it will undoubtedly enhance the effectiveness of such adjustments.

At the Geneva Motor Show, Continental displayed, even here for the second time, its WinterContact TS 860 S, albeit in a wider range of sizes, dedicated to high-performance cars such as Audi Sport, BMW M-Series, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche. The tire promises superior performance on snow clad roads, high-braking-performance and excellent handling in dry conditions, all combined with reduced rolling resistance.

The grooves have been designed to guarantee superior traction and handling in poor grip conditions while the sipes are entrusted with providing more than adequate grip on snow. The smaller grooves between the tread-blocks close when braking and stiffen the tread, reducing braking distance.

Safe handling on snow as well as low rolling resistance is further guaranteed by the compound used. Additionally, the close collaboration with car makers which use Continental as original equipment, has produced specific tires for the different models maintaining the same profile.

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