From a Rubber Pattern to Total Control! Future Tires Will be a Source of Invaluable Information
During the first three months of every year in Europe, two important automotive shows (which incorporate tires) take place and as usual I have been an interested visitor to both events.
In February, the Tire Technology Expo takes place in Germany which is mainly focused on tire production technologies and innovations for the future, while in March the internationally renowned Geneva Motor Show is held in Switzerland. Although the Geneva event is primarily looking at the very latest current and concept vehicles, the show is also targeted by most of the leading global tire manufacturers who are there to showcase their latest product ranges.
However, some of these tire producers also use the show as the perfect platform to launch and introduce their very latest developments on how tomorrow’s tires will look and perform in the mid- to long-term future. In fact, that is exactly what Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe was concentrating on this year and I willingly accepted an invitation for an exclusive interview with Percy Lemaire, director for tire technology — consumer tires Europe, to give me an insight into what the company has recently been working on.
Lemaire explained that apart from showcasing two new products — the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 high performance tire and the Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 ultra-high performance pattern which, in course, will be available on a global basis — the main aim at this event was to unveil the company’s futuristic approach to the combined innovation of both vehicles and concept tires.
Goodyear Dunlop at the moment is very much following in the footsteps of major vehicle producers regarding the eventual development of driverless cars and trucks which is already in its initial stages in Europe and in particular the UK where several experimental projects are already taking place on major road routes.
Lemaire says, “With the driverless vehicle age almost upon us, at Goodyear we are able to provide an insight into the gelling of several different ideas into one visionary concept which is designed to examine the type of tires that will be fitted to cars and trucks in the year 2030 and beyond. We firmly believe that by this time vehicles will definitely either be partly or wholly autonomous and everything a driver has to do when at the wheel at the moment such as assessing the environment and testing road conditions will be carried out automatically.”
However, what was even more fascinating was that Goodyear is reasonably sure these mind-boggling automatic assessments will be carried out by tires as they are universally recognized as the first contact point between the road and a vehicle. Lemaire explained there is every reason to assume tires will become even more important and play an ever increasing larger role in the art of vehicle sensing and communication in the future.
He adds, “There does not appear to be any doubt that in the long-term future, tires will effectively be able to measure various parameters and accurately capture crucial information including intelligent data processing to ascertain the actual driving conditions of a vehicle at any time. In effect, drivers’ actions will be carried out by the tires and they will be capable of altering actual driving characteristics such as speed, acceleration and direction in line with ‘real time’ road conditions.”
To be honest, all of this information sounds remarkable to me, but when you think about it — totally feasible, and it will be very interesting to follow the progress of these innovations in the next couple of decades. Certainly what Goodyear predicts will happen to the identity of tires of the future stands in line with the whole concept of driverless cars and only time will tell what will happen.
So whether you are in Europe, America or anywhere else in the world, in due course it sounds like the tires retailers sell to the public will be much more than a lump of rubber and more a source of information and guidance. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 24 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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