- today's driver-assistance systems don't care one whit about the tires, which is a mistake, bridgestone says.
- the tiremaker's connected-tire concept can send measurements to the driver-assistance system computer and even to a smart city.
- the company is also showing off an airless tire designed to be used on other planets.
if there was still any doubt that the ces technology show has turned, at least partly, into a big automotive show, bridgestone provides an answer. for 2020, the tire company is participating in ces for the first time ever, and it's bringing the appropriate kind of advanced tires to justify attendance. bridgestone is showing off two kinds of tire technology at ces: a sensor-filled connected smart tire (pictured above) and ideas for airless tires.
the airless tires combine a tire's tread and wheel into a single high-strength structure that takes away any chance of a flat tire. bridgestone's portfolio of advanced airless tires cover the gamut of possible uses, on earth and beyond. the most basic could be used in commercial fleets and for personal mobility, while the most outlandish concept is an airless, elastic tire and wheel solution that the company is developing for a lunar rover that could be used on an international space exploration mission.
a tire that talks to your car
there's more tech in the concept connected tire. some drivers use connected tires today, as a part of tire-pressure monitoring systems. but the proactive smart tire that bridgestone is showing off can do a lot more than tell you if the tire needs some air. this one is designed to allow three high-tech actions—sense, sync, and act—when paired with a compatible advanced driver-assistance system (adas), according to hans dorfi, director of digital engineering at bridgestone americas. the tire can sense the road and its own condition, then send that information to the car to use in making self-driving decisions.
"adas systems today completely ignore the tire," dorfi told car and driver. "bringing that information into the vehicle can provide additional layers of safety."
today's driver-assist systems are agnostic to tires. they will operate the same whether the car is outfitted with summer or winter tires, with new or worn ones. today's systems can react when a tire slips, but bridgestone's new connected tire is supposed to give the adas more information to be better at preventing crashes.
the extra information comes from a new sensor inside the tire that is glued to the tire's inner wall. with each rotation, as that part of the tire makes contact with the ground, the sensor measures the deformation of the adhesive as a way to measure the strain on the tire.
this information is then sent to an onboard system that uses a "digital twin" model of that tire and, using a bridgestone algorithm that incorporates the company's proprietary information about that particular tire, turns strain measurements into wear estimates. a vehicle using these connected tires only needs one digital model in its memory, creating four instances of that model (one for each tire) to keep track of what's happening in the real world. a car could also be designed to account for different tires: larger tires on the rear axle, for example.
some information from the tire could be sent beyond the car it's attached to. the sensor is sensitive enough to detect shallow potholes, and data like this could be sent to the local department of transportation in order to build up a map of which roads might need repairs soon. bridgestone said it has not yet talked to any local government about adding this data to a smart city.
how much will this cost?
there are still a lot of things that bridgestone hasn't figured out—or won't say—about its connected tire. for example, the sensor requires a battery, but all that roshan thapliya, digital solution center director at bridgestone, would tell car and driver is that the power source the company is using will outlast the typical tire life. in the u.s., that means a little over five years in a passenger car.
price is another vague issue at this point. t.j. higgins, bridgestone americas' global chief strategic officer, would not give a number but told c/d that it would be an "inconsequential" increase in cost for a $175 tire.
as for when a tire like this leaves the bright ces show floor and onto passenger cars, no definite answer was given. thapliya said the company has proved the concept works through tests in japan and now needs to do durability tests for the adhesive. the company wants to complete development this year and is open to working with an automaker or fleet company to conduct more tests. until then, you're going to have to keep checking your tires for wear yourself.