Autonomous driving, electrification, artificial intelligence: the automotive industry is currently undergoing drastic changes. Today modern cars are already functioning as driving computers, kitted out with a whole armada of assistance systems and sensors. Similarly modern technology has also found its way into car tyres. Since 2012 newly registered passenger cars have had to be equipped with tyre pressure monitoring systems. But: the original concept of the air-filled tyre has not changed for about 130 years.
But that is also likely to change in the next few years. The tyre industry is working flat out on the car tyre of the future. Tyre manufacturers regularly present new concepts and studies that often have little to do with ordinary tyres as we know them today. But two revolutionary changes in particular are less far away than one might think.
Because anyone who looks at the numerous concepts for the future doing the rounds will recognise these two trends in particular: the car tyre of the future is likely to run without air and it is to become "intelligent". Thus, the intelligent car tyre could warn the driver of possible dangers, determine the condition of the road surface and in this way make an important contribution to a world of connected mobility and to future autonomous driving. A third trend is that of the self-regenerating tyre.
The first airless car tyres could be on the market as early as 2024. The tread of the tyre is supported here by a structure consisting of a variety of materials. This is made up of flexible plastic spokes that are directly connected to the profiled tread. Depending on the concept, these spokes are manufactured out of polyester resin or glass fibre and they are extremely resistant.
In addition, they boast a high load-bearing capacity, which means that such a car tyre can also be fitted on heavy SUVs. Furthermore, the spokes have a vibration-damping effect during driving. And with this concept, you no longer have to worry about maintaining the right tyre pressure on your vehicle. Another bonus is that airless tyres are more puncture-resistant than conventional car tyres and thus offer a particularly high level of safety and reliability.
With other concepts, the tyre as a “passive component" becomes an active one. And they go far beyond what is possible today, for example, with tyre pressure sensors or tyre pressure monitoring systems. Equipped with additional sensors, tyres will in future be able to detect the current road condition and, in the event of danger, for example aquaplaning, will be able to alert other drivers to this danger. This is made possible by the so-called V2X or Car-To-Car communication, in which different vehicles can communicate with each other or with the traffic infrastructure. Sensors record, among other things, the condition of the car tyre, the temperature, the air pressure, the weight and also the road conditions. Therefore an automated tyre pressure recommendation based on such measured parameters is possible. And yet another option: If the system notices that grip is decreasing on wet or slippery roads, it can send a signal to the engine control unit to reduce speed.
Intelligent and connected car tyres are therefore likely to further improve road safety in the future and they represent an important addition to systems already known today. Together with 360° surroundings detection and 77 GHz radar technology, which HELLA has also been working on intensively for many years, an almost total safety system is becoming possible.
A car tyre that never has to be changed again? Hard to believe, isn't it? But a major tyre manufacturer thinks this is true. With this concept, it is intended that the tyres regenerate themselves and actually never need to be changed again. This is supposed to be made possible by a capsule filled with a special liquid rubber mixture with which the tread can be automatically refilled. The capsules, in turn, can also be refilled.
As revolutionary as the various concepts and approaches may seem: the development of new tyres will continue to focus on safety and performance. It will also be crucial to conserve resources and reduce fuel consumption.