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Leading Next-gen Driving, Intelligent Tires

As tires come in direct contact with the road surface, they can dictate the vehicle's driving performance. So, Hankook Tire has been conducting researching for an intelligent tire with a composite sensor to collect and analyze the various data points. The technology will enable safer driving and vehicle management based on the data provided by the tire.

Smarter, the digital evolution of tires

The movement of vehicles is more complex than you could imagine. Cars need tires that connect to the road surface to achieve mobility. In other words, tires need to endure and control all the dynamic characteristics of the vehicles. In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that tires are the most critical component of a vehicle. So, let's take a look at an even more extreme stage.

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  • ©Jeong Youngdae
    People in motorsports are completely aware of the importance of tires.
    Picture from the 2019 Dream Race, a collaborative event between German DTM and Japanese Super GT.

Maintaining the tire grip as long as possible throughout the race gives strategic advantages to the team in the motorsport to win a race. Hence, the information related to the status of each tire during the race is the most critical data for any racing team. Teams utilize the obtained tremendous amount of data, including the pressure levels, surface temperatures, and the amount of wear, to manage tires and use as a strategy for a race.

Although not as much as a race car, the everyday cars are equipped with similar tire data collection devices. The Tire Pressure Monitoring System, TPMS, is a mandatory attachment today. TPMS is a safety device that checks the air pressure inside a tire and warns the drivers when it drops below a standard value. It prevents any accidents or emergencies caused by tire punctures.

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TPMS sensor with integrated tire air valve

Wouldn't it be possible to do more if we could figure out and analyze everything that happens to the tires?
Like collecting the telemetry information of the race cars, Hankook Tire is conducting wide-ranging research to gather more information and data on tires from passenger cars to make smarter tires and intelligent tires.

Interview

“Intelligent tires help with building safer driving conditions by collecting and analyzing various data. Pressure, temperature, load, and speed can be obtained, as well as the secondary data, such as the wear on tires and the conditions of the road surface. Intelligent tires breathe life into tires.”

Mintae Kim (Mobility Solution Development Project Researcher)

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  • The tires directly touching the road determine the driving performance of the car.

Q. When was the concept of the “Intelligent Tire” established?

The idea was established earlier than you might think, and the idea was designated as one of the national projects in 2004. Shortly after that, we seriously began that research, and a consortium was formed with automobile and electronics companies. Now, we are working with several foreign companies that have secured advanced technologies related to intelligent tires.

Q. Which research field is Hankook Tire mainly focusing on?

When we developed this kind of technology, we focused mainly on physical equipment such as devices and sensors. We are now conducting additional research to figure out the type of data that can be obtained from each device and what service can be provided using the first data and the analyzed secondary data rather than focusing on physical equipment.

Q. The intelligent tire is still an unfamiliar concept to most people. Please explain it to those who don't know about it.

TPMS, which measures air pressure, falls under the category of an intelligent tire. The intelligent tire has a comprehensive meaning, collecting abundant information from the embedded electronic devices, including sensors, processing it into meaningful data, and providing it or turning it into a service. The most crucial goal of the intelligent tire is improved safety. In other words, the intelligent tire helps to collect and analyze all the different information about driving to make driving safer and even more efficient.

Q. I think the intelligent tire will be welcomed by the motorsports field as they utilize tire-related data for their race strategies.

That's right. Motorsports-related research has been underway since Hankook Tire recently distinguished itself as a name in motorsports. We are launching Track Solution, equipped with a device developed with researchers from the motorsports team. Track Solution collects information on air pressure and temperature in real-time. It helps determine pit-in timing more accurately or decide the tire management strategy for the next race by applying data to the race debriefing.

Q. How does the intelligent tire collect data?

TPMS, integrated with the valve, uses a sensor inserted into the tire rims to measure the air pressure. The basic principle of the intelligent tire is the same as that of TPMS. However, there are a couple of differences. It can measure more physical properties such as temperature, load, and acceleration, and the installation location is on the inner liner. An intelligent sensor obtains information about the tires’ physical deflection. It collects data after detecting the tire rotation and transmits the data to the receiver connected to ECU* via the wireless RF communication. A wide range of information can be collected, including the air pressure, temperature, the number of rotations, load transferred to the tires, vehicle slip and pull, and the tire tread wear level.

*ECU : Shorthand for the electronic control unit An electronic control device that controls the state of a vehicle's engine, automatic transmission, abs, etc. with a processor

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The cross-sectional view of the tire. The intelligent tire device (sensor) is attached to the inner liner.

Q. That’s amazing. Is there more information you can obtain from it?

Of course. The primarily collected information can be processed or analyzed to produce secondary data. For example, the shape or conditions of the road that the tire meets can be analyzed, and it can detect whether the road surface is wet or covered with snow and check the friction coefficient that critically impacts the brake system. In addition, the intelligent tire checks the tire damage, including the tread wear levels, and helps to maintain safer driving.

Q. How does the information collected by the intelligent tire affect the vehicle?

The impact of the weight changes on the traction is evaluated closely. The data obtained from the intelligent tire is the information that changes in real-time. The future's dynamic characteristics can be predicted by analyzing the center of gravity using the friction coefficient changes, depending on the load to tires or information from each of the four tires. This data is then used to inform the vehicle's control system.

Q. So, can it be connected with driving assistance devices like ESC?

The wheel speed sensors adjust the number of rotations of the tires correctly in case of a wheel spin on a particular tire. The intelligent tire can provide more accurate information. In addition, it will be difficult for driverless cars to pre-detect and respond correctly to challenging conditions like icy roads as the driver intervention based on evaluating the visual inspection of the road is not available. Suppose the intelligent tire figures out the road conditions and responds appropriately and proactively. In that case, I believe it would be possible to ensure better safety. Even if the sensor or radar and LiDAR technologies improve, tires need to figure out the road conditions from the beginning to the end.

*ESC : Electronic Stability Control An electronic device that monitors a vehicle while driving in real-time and adjusts the brake system and output in a dangerous situation to help the vehicle correct its posture.

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  • The intelligent tire can detect whether the road is paved, wet, or covered with snow.

Q. The concept of a sensor reading the road is not that commonly known.

When a tire touches the road surface, it cannot maintain a perfect circular shape but is squished at the bottom due to the vehicle load. When the tires rotate under this condition, they make a waveform with specific rules. Since the tire rotation is a three-dimensional movement, it creates waveforms in the X, Y, and Z directions while driving. Each movement makes its waveform while accelerating, braking, and turning. Let’s say you drive on a gravel road. Several waveform patterns will be generated, and the wheels will keep spinning slightly with traction on the slippery stones. The sensor can analyze the specific waveforms produced in this situation and determine the road conditions.

Q. How extensively and quickly can the intelligent tire analyze the road surface?

Almost all road conditions can be analyzed, including dry, wet, snowy, icy, asphalt, gravel, and concrete roads. It takes about a second to examine the real-time information and transmit it to the vehicle’s ECU. The time is not for transmitting the data but collecting it, and the tires need that time to read the road surface.

“Intelligent tires transmit even more data than before, compared to the existing TPMS, which sends tire pressure. The data cannot be obtained anywhere else, making it even more valuable.”

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  • High-performance car brands are interested in intelligent tires to deliver power with guaranteed safety.

Q. Do car manufacturers show interests in this area?

Many companies are paying attention to intelligent tires. Tesla has shown the most interest, along with Porsche and Mercedes-Benz/AMG.

Q. Why do high-performance car brands have an interest in the intelligent tire?

When a car reaches high speeds, the TPMS sensor is bent by centrifugal force, resulting in unreliable measurements. Since it can be dangerous from a long-term perspective, vehicle companies want to install the sensor inside the tires. They also want to collect more tire-related data to provide a faster, safer, and more powerful driving experience. In addition, using the intelligent tire can improve a brand's reputation since they are pursuing advanced technologies, which may be the reason.

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  • The intelligent tire is expected to be welcomed by logistics companies because time and cost management directly lead to a more significant competitive edge.

Q. How about the commercial vehicle sector?

We think that the intelligent tire offers many advantages for operating commercial vehicles. For example, there is no need to worry about the loss from overloading as tires can measure the weight, and paying for fines from speeding can be prevented. Tire damage results in a loss of terms of money and time, and time means even more money. Therefore, it is particularly efficient for logistics companies where the tire management directly leads to cost control.

Q. If you were to define the intelligent tire, what would you say?

I want to say that making tires intelligent is the same as "bringing life to tires." While everything is connected through the network nowadays, tires aren't the case. The digitalization of tires was challenging to achieve as they were exposed to very harsh environments. If tires evolve into intelligent tires, they can finally be incorporated as part of the digital network. This is all we have to say about bringing life to tires.