Techno-Snow Tires Easier on Roads?

March 31, 2008
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A South Carolina-based company says they have the cure for damaging tire chains and for sloppy winter driving, too. Their solution: a new spin on tire treads that builds a retractable stud into the tire.

At the flick of a switch inside the car, Q Tires says, its product's tread will bulge with studs that improve traction on icy and slushy streets. The treads revert to normal after another flick, says founder Michael O'Brien.

O'Brien, a Californian, founded the company after living a few years in the Midwest and dealing with winter weather. With $8.8 million in startup money, his Q Tires -- so dubbed with a wink and a nod to the James Bond films -- is developing its product with mass production in mind.

The tires are built around a central air chamber that, when inflated, pushes the studs out through the usual tread. A wireless transponder signals the tire to deflate or inflate the chamber according to the need for traction. The company estimates the tires could cost 30 percent more than normal winter tires, but wouldn't have to be mounted and unmounted. They might also reduce wear and tear on roads, the makers suggest.

In the meantime, the New York Times reports O'Brien is lobbying state governments to amend laws that forbid studded tires in summer months -- because by law, his tires would be illegal even with their new technology.

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