What does the ‘tyre of the future’ look like to you? Can it change shape? Or even fly?
Perhaps, but for us at Bridgestone, the tyre of the future isn’t in the distant future, it’s happening now.
And it’s not one particular design; it's what tyres need to become if they’re going to be part of CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) mobility, and address the macrotrends, such as urbanisation, climate change and dwindling resources, impacting our industry and world.
Here’s how we’re turning our vision into reality, today…
Armed with data-gathering light sensors, connected tyres can provide drivers and fleet managers with real-time updates on tyre health and performance. Combine these sensors with predictive algorithms, and road users can benefit from newfound levels of convenience, efficiency and safety.
On our journey to develop this connected tyre of the future, we announced that, as of 2019, all new Bridgestone commercial tyre lines will be equipped with electronic tyre tagging system, RFID. Today we continue to invest in the development of next generation best-in-class sensors that can help bring the fully connected tyre to the market. Which is how we came to recently reveal our new Smart Strain Sensor technology.
A world-first, Smart Strain Sensors are embedded inside the tyre and use next-generation Internet of Things technology to measure the change in strain that occurs when a tyre makes contact with the road – collecting data on the tyre wear condition and wheel axle load, as well as tyre inflation pressure and temperature. But what’s most significant about Smart Strain Sensor technology is the focus on strain. Traditional tyre sensors typically require speed to acquire data; exclusively measuring strain means that our Smart Strain Sensor technology can obtain highly reliable data at far lower speeds. The technology will be particularly valuable for autonomous vehicles, as they are expected to travel at consistently lower speeds.
As the technology behind autonomous vehicles develops, ensuring that the vehicles can quickly adapt to the road ahead is crucial to enhancing the safety they provide. The connected tyre – made possible by technology like our Smart Strain Sensors – is key to the success and acceptance of autonomous vehicles as a popular form of mobility.
Put simply, tyres made from more resilient materials have a longer wear life. All road users benefit from resilient tyres, but none more so than commercial fleets and shared mobility providers – because of ultra-high vehicle usage and resulting maintenance costs. Observing the growing demand for resilient, long-lasting tyres, we’ve developed a new material: High Strength Rubber. It’s the world’s first hybrid polymer of rubber and resin and has a crack resistance that is over five times higher than natural rubber, an abrasion resistance that is more than 2.5 times higher, and a tensile strength that is more than 1.5 times. We’ve also developed our NanoPro-Tech™ compound technology, which binds the tyre’s rubber molecules with silica, offers greater durability to extend wear life.
High Strength Rubber and NanoPro-Tech™ are providing huge benefits for our customers when it comes to convenience and efficiency. And, by extending wear life and limiting the demand for new tyres to be manufactured, these new material technologies are also offering environmental benefits.
At Bridgestone we’ve been developing our proprietary Run-Flat Technology (RFT) for the past 20 years – enabling a tyre with zero air pressure to continue at speeds up to 80 km/h for 80 km as well as other self-sealing technologies.
Today, as autonomous vehicles increasingly become a reality, the demand for continuous mobility has grown further. Because if a vehicle can drive itself, it should also be capable of dealing with punctures itself. This is why we’re hard at work taking our RFT to the next level. Since 2018, Bridgestone’s revolutionary DriveGuard RFT is available on its main product lines. This is a leap forward for everyday drivers in terms of safety, convenience and peace of mind.
Alongside efforts to solve this challenge is the ‘air free’ tyre, which could itself be another viable solution. We’ve engineered a durable, high strength tyre design that eliminates the need for air entirely – essentially removing the risk of a flat tyre and the vehicle downtime that comes with it.
But what’s next after a tyre that can provide continuous mobility? One step further is combining these technologies with sensors that capture driving style alongside the tyre condition. Through predictive modelling, the mileage left to fix a tyre can be far better estimated.
Usually, the noise made by traditional tyres is masked by the sound of a combustion engine. Nonetheless, electric vehicles (EVs) create almost no engine noise. Furthermore, growing urbanisation requires us to reduce overall noise emissions for a better standard of living.
We at Bridgestone have been working on a solution. We’ve developed our B-Silent tyre technology to minimise in-vehicle noise on all road surfaces and increase comfort of the driver – particularly for EVs. From our Noise Lab, we closely analyse the noise levels of each new tyre and pinpoint adjustments which can dramatically reduce in-vehicle and exterior noise.
Today, tyres are smarter, quieter and more damage-resistant, than ever before. Be it through connected, resilient, continuous or silent technologies, we’re moving towards a more convenient, efficient and safer driving experience. As a leader in mobility solutions, we expand and strengthen our products and services to serve our customers, while helping to shape the future of mobility.