Pirelli: The Cyber Tire
An embedded sensor “reads the road” to inform the driver.
Modern cars, as it’s often so famously pointed out, have more sensors and computing power than the rockets that went to the moon. But in contrast to all the artificial intelligence in cars, and despite all the improvements in construction, compound and tread, their tires have essentially remained simply round and black—until now.
Pirelli has announced the Cyber Tire, an all-new tire concept with the ability to transmit vital information to the driver and to the car’s driving systems to further enhance safety and stability.
Building on technology
The new system builds on the technology behind the company’s existing CyberFleet system, which uses a sensor mounted inside the tire that measures significant changes in air pressure or temperature, along with the option of the distance the tire has travelled and its position on the vehicle. This information can be accessed by a hand-held reader or over the Internet by GPS.
Cyber Tire goes beyond that. It uses an autonomous electronic sensor, its size only about one square centimetre that “reads” the road and how the tire reacts to it. The sensor analyzes the road conditions and interprets the amount of available grip; determines whether the road is dry, wet, or icy; senses the vertical load, and lateral and longitudinal forces, to calculate when aquaplaning will occur; determines the type of asphalt on the road; reads the footprint and angle of the tire, the tire’s temperature and air pressure, the number of revolutions, and the tire’s wear.
The sensor also becomes the tire’s identification and can be programmed with information unique to the unit.
All of this data is continually transmitted wirelessly, in real time, to the vehicle’s onboard computers and electronic systems. Using a graphic display, the information is then displayed to the driver. Just as some of today’s cars can warn the driver about impending forward collisions or other dangers, the car could let the driver know if he’s going too fast for the road conditions, or if extra caution is needed depending on the road surface.
The tire sensor’s information would also be used by the vehicle’s active and passive safety features. This additional “layer” of information could be used by the vehicle’s anti-lock brakes, stability control, drive-by-wire throttle and steering, and other systems to proactively react to the conditions even before the driver gets into trouble.
Additional efficiency benefits
When the driver uses cruise control, the real-time information about tire grip generated by the Cyber Tire’s internal sensor will allow this system to adjust its speed and braking to precisely suit the surface conditions, including when cornering or when there is a risk of aquaplaning.
The new sensor-equipped tire is being developed by Pirelli’s Research and Development department in conjunction with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Milan University.
While the Cyber Tire is still being studied by major car manufacturers for possible inclusion as original equipment, its predecessor, the CyberFleet system, is already being used by some fleets in South America and Europe. Like the CyberFleet system, the Cyber Tire will also help to improve fuel efficiency through its automatic pressure and temperature readouts, an additional benefit to the system’s extensive safety-oriented information for drivers when it comes to market.