By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli tyres are developing a new “Cyber Tyre” that detects when a car is about to skid and switches on safety systems in time to prevent it.
The Italian firm claim the new tyres could also improve the fuel-efficiency of cars to which it is fitted.
The Cyber Tyre works with the aid of a small device which is embedded inside it containing miniature sensors to measure the acceleration and deceleration along three axes at the point of contact with the road.
A tiny transmitter in the device sends those readings to a unit that is linked to the braking and other control systems.
The tyre has taken nine years to develop so far and the main difficulty has been making the sensor very small and light, but capable of operating in harsh conditions.
Constantly monitoring the forces that tyres are subjected to as they grip the road could help reduce fuel consumption by optimising braking and suspension.
Moreover, it could promote the greater use of tyres with a low rolling-resistance, which are often fitted to hybrid vehicles.
These save fuel by reducing the resistance between the tyre and the road but, to do so, they have a reduced grip, especially in the wet.
If fitted with sensors, such tyres could be more closely monitored and controlled in slippery conditions.
So far, the results are impressive, according to a report in Economist.com.
A prototype Cyber Tyre has been running on a test vehicle for the past nine months. Pirelli believes its new tyre could be fitted to cars in 2012 or 2013, if car makers incorporate the necessary monitoring and control systems into their vehicles.