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September 15, 2017

Conductive rubber lets smart tires sense punctures, road conditions, tread depth

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Ever wound up with flat tire because you could forgot to check their wear and tear? These self-assessing smart tires could be the solution.

We might be on the verge of owning autonomous cars and driving on high-tech “elect-roads,” but the tires that separate our vehicles from the asphalt haven’t changed a whole lot with new technology, right? Try telling that to car tire manufacturer Continental. At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Continental is showing off an impressive concept smart tire — one that’s capable of measuring tread depth and temperature using special sensors, and then alerting drivers of any tire damage they may have suffered.

“The ContiSense technology ‘senses’ all information from the road surface, as well the condition of the tire itself,” Kai Rühling, a senior PR consultant for Continental, told Digital Trends. “With its conductive rubber inlayers it can feel if there is a metallic obstacle puncturing the tire.

“It can also measure the tread depth because the conductive material realizes that the electric tension, which runs through the rubber, is dependent on the material thickness. Simply put, the more rubber material on the tread pattern, the lower electric tension, while the less rubber material on tread pattern equals higher electric tension.”

The electricity for measuring this comes from a sensor and integrated battery. In the future, however, the plan is that the system could also work by generating its own power through contactless movement, similar to a mechanical watch.

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“It is the next generation of intelligent tire for autonomous driving vehicles,” Rühling continued. “You as a driver don’t have to maintain the tire anymore as it will service itself. The tire will tell your car, ‘I need a service,’ and in the future, it will communicate as well with other cars.”

The ContiSense is just one of two tires being shown off by Continental. They have also created the ContiAdapt, which is a tire with four different tread patterns able to adapt depending on the surface it’s driving on. For snow, ice, and gravel, it will deflate the tire pressure with its integrated compressor, and widen the rim for a bigger and better footprint. It can also inflate to find the ideal rolling resistance for wet and dry road conditions.

There’s no word on when the tires might be available, but we’ll certainly keep you in the loop when an announcement is made.




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