2010 Mazda Mazda6
Could smarter tires translate into safer family cars--and potentially reduce ownership costs?
Tiremaker Pirelli is working with Schrader Electronics on its Cyber Tire project (previously Pirelli was working with Brembo and Magnet-Marelli), which is a project aimed at creating a production-ready intelligent tire by 2013.
Schrader already makes tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), which have become pretty common on today's vehicles. But an intelligent tire will do more than just monitor air pressure in the tire.
The system would be able to self-report on data such as tread depth, temperature, contact-patch shape, and more. These pieces of data could be fed into a car's stability control, traction control, and ABS systems, which in turn could allow those systems to perform better. Another possibility--the data could used to determine how far a car can travel on a deflated tired, thus allowing drivers to know if they can limp to a repair shop or not when a flat tire is encountered.
The potential for this system is intriguing. Both performance (think ride and handling) and safety could be potentially improved. The data could also potentially be used to increase fuel economy. Knowing the tire's tread depth and expected remaining life could allow owners to be more vigilant when it comes to replacing old tires, thus improving safety and possibly lowering costs.
Right now, these tires are just prototypes. Pirelli is looking for a launch date of 2013. If that date holds true, we'd expect higher-end cars to see the first use of this technology.