WAIT AND WATCH
An expert on self-driving/automated and connected vehicles, Dr Brandon Schoettle is a leading researcher in automotive technology trends. As Project Manager with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, which is dedicated to achieving safe and sustainable transportation for a global society, he has been investigating safety-related issues regarding autonomous vehicles and related technologies, human-machine interface, and benchmarking in both laboratory and field of automotive lighting and vision systems. In this interview to Tyre Asia he gives his perspective on intelligent tyres, autonomous vehicles, and technology trends that impact transportation and mobility worldwide
TA News Bureau
As a leading researcher on automotive technology trends, Dr Brandon Schoettle has his fingers on the pulse of the global automotive and tyre industry. He has a world view in this field as Project Manager with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
In an interview to Tyre Asia he gives his perspective on intelligent tyres, autonomous vehicles, and technology trends impacting transportation and mobility.
Tyre engineers have been speaking about ‘intelligent tyres’ for a pretty long time. But the fact is that such ‘cyber tyres’ are yet to become commercially available despite their key advantages of delivering better safety and optimum fuel consumption etc. Auto enthusiasts would like to know whether these will become standard fitment by 2020.
“As much as the different tyre companies are working very hard to make intelligent tyres a reality, I doubt that they will be standard equipment as soon as 2020,” says Dr Schoettle.
“It may be that these types of tyres start to become available around that time, but seeing them as standard equipment is still likely to be many years in the future.”
In a recent research paper authored by him and his colleague Michael Sivak, they highlighted that tyres, because of their unique functions and place on a vehicle, have the potential to become a more integral part of active and intelligent autonomous vehicles than has been the case for human-controlled conventional vehicles over the past century.
Tyres have the potential to become a more integral part of active and intelligent autonomous vehicles than has been the case for human-controlled conventional vehicles over the past century
They say that future tyres fall into two main tyre categories: Active tyres that are able to ‘do something’ dynamically in response to environmental or vehicular conditions or changes in the state of the tyre itself, and Intelligent tyres that are instrumented and able to ‘sense something’ about the state of the tyre itself or the immediate environment where the vehicle is operating.
Such tyres will be able to communicate this information to the higher-level system operating the vehicle to optimise their performance.
When asked whether intelligent tyres could be target of ‘cyber attacks’ with the wider introduction of driverless cars and autonomous vehicles, he comments: “I think most of the work being done to protect against cyber attacks with autonomous vehicles is happening at the vehicle level. But it is also just as important that each component of those future systems have some level of built-in security too, including all of the different varieties of intelligent tyre sensors that are likely to be used with these vehicles.”
Dr Schoettle doesn’t think that in the coming decade, intelligent/cyber tyres would be a reality in their claimed role in transportation and personal nobility. “We still need to wait to see what types of intelligent tyres are ultimately possible for production on a mass-market scale.”
The early versions of intelligent tyres already in use for various race circuits (Formula 1, etc.) have shown how they can be improved in terms of efficiency and security with which the official tyres are managed across different tracks and race teams.
Commenting on the major technological transformation in tyre manufacturing/retreading if regulators come with further safety standardisation, he rules out any immediate changes in the tyre industry.
“I would not necessarily expect to see immediate changes unless the newest technology – such as with intelligent tyres – ends up being required by regulators, or required for use by certain vehicle types.”
Unless the newest technology – such as with intelligent tyres – ends up being required by regulators, or required for use by certain vehicle types, no immediate changes are expected in tyres
As long as the market exists for the technology they manufacture, those technologies will likely be around for some time to come. After all, with the vehicle turnover rate in countries like the US, it takes decades for most of the on-road vehicle fleet to be replaced.
On the challenges that tyre engineers still face to make the perfect intelligent tyre, Dr Schoettle sees two types of major issues that they have to grapple with.
One is the ability to produce such a tyre and have the various embed sensors and electronics be able to withstand the manufacturing temperatures and/or pressures required when making a tyre. Second, finding accurate ways to measure the data that is needed to make the intelligent tyre effective and truly ‘intelligent’.
Says he: “The desire to measure in real-time things like tread depth or friction coefficient with the roadway would be extremely useful, but are also very difficult to do well, at the right price, with a production tyre or millions of production tyres.”
It is still watch and wait for intelligent tyres to become common fitment on vehicles.
(Published in February-March 2018 issue of Tyre Asia)