The latest innovation to emerge from Pirelli’s Milan headquarters is the “Cyber Tyre” and with it Pirelli believes it is pioneering a new generation of tyre technology. The Cyber Tyre features embedded sensors and is designed to provide vital information about vehicle performance and road conditions. The idea is that this data is then conveyed to the driver as well as to the car’s electronics, helping improve safety and efficiency.
While not currently in series production for passengers cars, various stages of prototype have been around for some time. Tyres & Accessories first saw a Cyber Tyre prototype at Pirelli’s “Technology in Revolution” event in 2005. By April 2010, leading direct TPMS manufacturer Schrader was saying that the Cyber Tyre was close to production and would begin to hit the market in three years. Sure enough, testing of CyberFleet by European and South American fleets began in February 2012 ready for a September 2012 market launch. This version saw Pirelli extend its Cyber Tyre technology to the commercial vehicle sector (see below for further details). Again, this technology was produced in partnership with Schrader Electronics.
However development doesn’t end there, according to Pirelli representatives, Cyber Tyre continues to be worked on by Pirelli’s research and development department together with the department of Mechanical Engineering at Milan University. According to Pirelli, the result will be “unprecedented levels of safety and performance, adding to the active and passive safety systems that are already present on modern vehicles.”
An autonomous electronic sensor measuring around one square centimetre is at the heart of the Cyber Tyre. This helps the tyre “read the road and its interaction with the tyre” sending this data wirelessly car’s on-board computer and other electronic systems in real time. This data is then displayed to the driver via a graphical interface. The sensor is capable of interpreting the grip available, analysing road conditions that range from dry to wet to icy, as well as the condition of the road surface (which clearly also affects the amount of traction on offer).
In addition, Cyber Tyre senses the vertical, lateral and longitudinal forces on the tyre, calculating how much speed can be carried before aquaplaning occurs, as well as how much grip is available before the car starts to skid. Other data fields include information about the type of asphalt on the road, the footprint and angle of the tyre, as well as tyre temperature, pressure, wear and number of revolutions. The sensor also acts as each tyre’s ‘passport’, carrying unique information about its identity.
In summary, Pirelli’s futuristic intelligent tyre directly interprets all interaction between the tyre and the road in real time, providing advance information about how conditions are changing and any trouble ahead. As a result, safety margins are calculated instantly and conveyed to the vehicle’s control systems, which can then react immediately to the conditions and put in place optimal safeguards against any impending hazards.
In particular, Cyber Tyre allows cruise control and brake assist systems to react, adjusting speed and braking with total precision to suit the surface conditions.
Advanced features and OE take-up
Pirelli’s intelligent tyre can also implement new warning systems that are not generally used at the moment but are still essential for improved safety, such as those governing cornering speeds and aquaplaning risk. Working with the car’s advanced electronic control systems, speed can then be reduced to bring these parameters back within safe limits.
According to Pirelli, Cyber Tyre is currently being studied for inclusion as original equipment by some of the world’s major car manufacturers. However, it is also already a reality thanks to the aforementioned CyberFleet system for commercial vehicles that is already in-use by some of the leading fleets in Europe and South America. CyberFleet automatically monitors tyre pressures and temperatures, helping to optimise fleet costs by reducing fuel spend, while making tyre maintenance and pressure checks more efficient.
CyberFleet is available in both static and dynamic mode. In static mode, a portable data reader captures the data from each sensor when the vehicle is at rest. This information can be subsequently transferred to a computer for further analysis and archiving.
In dynamic mode, full integration with a telematics system allows real time data capture from the sensors, transmitting information to a centralised database. Any anomalies in tyre temperature or pressure are signalled immediately to both the driver and the fleet manager. Track & Trace functionality is also available, which tracks all information on each individual vehicle’s tyres – including vital parameters such as distance travelled and speed. And of course if this can be put into practice in the commercial vehicle sector there’s no reason why comparable technology cannot work in the passenger car sector.