Data-driven tyres aid road maintenance in Japan

The subject of data is one that’s often been consigned to the digital world – and it is something that you might rarely associate with the very physical world of tyres. However today, the digitization of the automotive industry is bringing along tyre manufacturers in its wake as well. As vehicles become smarter, connected to the grid and equipped with data connectivity, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for data usage on the roads to make driving experience smoother and safer. 

One of the key concerns for drivers has always been around safety. Especially in countries which experience the four seasons, like Japan and Korea, winter-time driving can be full of hazards if not managed properly. Compound that with new technologies such as driverless cars, or even electric cars like Elon Musk’s Tesla, which have received heavy scrutiny regarding its safety features and how well such vehicles protect the driver and its passengers. That said, safety is a key area in which data and tyres can come together to showcase one of the great leaps in tyre technology.

Tyres with Sensors

Today, we have tyres utilizing sensors attached to the inside of tyres to obtain information on changes in road condition under any form of driving conditions. And what’s it being used for? Real time road maintenance, to keep the roads safe and get drivers back home to their families without incident.

Examining the Technology

The technology behind this is known as Contact Area Information Sensing, or CAIS for short. It’s currently being used with NEXCO Engineering Hokkaido, who are utilizing real-time information about road conditions to determine the best way of road maintenance in real time, for example whether to spread anti freezing agent (where and how much) or remove accumulated snow.

The sensors attached to the inside of the tyres gather data on a few parameters that are important to tyre safety – these include strain, acceleration, pressure and temperature, to name a few. These parameters, analysed as a whole, allows the measurement of overall tire conditions in and around the area of contact with the terrain. Currently, the technology classifies road conditions into seven different states: dry, semi-wet, wet, slush, fresh snow, compacted snow, and ice. The driver will receive a live-stream of the current road condition classification on screen, together with warnings of any change in the state of the road.

Once the sensor has obtained the necessary inputs, it transmits – via a wireless connection – data to a receiving smart device which analyses the data in real time and transforms it into useful information via the on-board system which is connected to the cloud.

Safety Application

Whilst that’s the present, one can easily imagine several future applications of CAIS, and here we outline two use cases which are safety related:

  • Taking it a step beyond road maintenance in countries where winter driving is a norm – such as Japan, China, Korea or New Zealand – one could imagine a situation where the driver is informed (via live-stream) of the current road condition classification on screen, together with warnings of any change in the state of the road. With this live-stream knowledge, one could easily adjust driving speed to suit the slipperiness of the roads
  • Additionally, the wear detection capabilities not only provide safety on the roads, but also make it possible for drivers to optimize tyre use, leading to longer mileage which in turn corresponds to more savings

All in all, data-driven tyres can deliver peace of mind by contributing to driver safety. With road safety a growing concern as more cars and congestion plague Asia’s big metropolises, a smarter driving experience enabled by data-driven tyres benefits everyone involved.