Continental In-Tire Tread Depth Monitor

Too many people ignore their tires. Most enthusiasts know that they are more than just pieces of rubber and are actually one of the most important factors in the ability to control a vehicle. Still, how many cars are driving around with clearly bald tires? Continental Tires thinks it has a solution, and it could start arriving on vehicles as soon as 2017.

The company's new system uses the an updated pressure monitoring system with new software to better understand each tire's rolling characteristics as it wears. The programming compares driving data to known information about how they should behave. Once the readings deviate too far, the system warns the driver to check the tread depth because it could be too low. Continental believes the wear-monitoring system could be available on some models in Europe as part of its electronic Tire Information System in 2017.

The tire company is also working on a further evolution of the system that could monitor load on tires. The software monitors their deformation as they roll and knows if there is too much weight on a corner. If there is, it notifies the driver. Continental even thinks it could link this system with assistance systems that would allow them to adjust for the vehicle's changing weight.

A Continental spokesperson told Autoblog a release date for the tire-wear detection system hasn't been set for the US yet. Scroll down to read the full details in the company's announcement.
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Continental In-Tire Sensors Read Tread Depth
May 7, 2014

Tire Pressure Sensors
Future tire pressure sensors read pressure, load and tread depth


Regensburg, May 7th 2014. The close cooperation between electronics and tire developers at Continental, the international automotive supplier, continues to bear fruit. Future tire pressure sensors, for instance, will be able to detect when a tire change is necessary due to insufficient tread depth. Explaining the importance of regular tread depth monitoring, Andreas Wolf, head of the Body & Security business unit, points out, "It's not for nothing that legislators all over the world have defined a minimum tire tread depth for safe driving. We are delighted that we will, in future, be able to conveniently read tread depth electronically with the aid of sensors embedded in the tires." Intelligent software makes the new feature possible. The software deduces tread depth from gradual changes in tire rolling characteristics. The in-tire pressure sensor infers running characteristics from the variations in tire deformation. The new feature is tentatively slated to be available as of 2017 in new vehicle models equipped with direct tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) from Continental (electronic Tire Information System, eTIS).

The secret behind tread depth detection

For this completely new type of electronic tread depth detection, Continental engineers draw on a tire's gradually changing rolling characteristics over a longer period of time. Tire and electronics developers conducted an intensive series of tests that allowed the basic data to be fed into the electronics of future vehicles. The specifics of the tires' altered rolling characteristics are compared with the accumulated empirical data. If the tread is run down to below a tire-specific threshold value, the on-board electrical system signals that a tire change is due.

If so desired, the vehicle's telematics module is even capable of informing the local auto service center. It goes without saying that people will still be able to check for themselves when the recommended or legally required minimum tread depth has been reached. For this purpose, the tire has wet-TWI (tread wear indicators). These are small ridges between the tread grooves that indicate that the brand manufacturers recommended minimum allowable tread depth (3 millimeters in summer tires, 4 mm for winter tires) have been attained.

Tires becoming intelligent

With the introduction of the first tire pressure sensors from Continental in 2002, the most important link between the vehicle and the road became intelligent .Since then, tire pressure sensors have been able to provide tire-by-tire information about the current tire pressure and conveniently warn drivers if tire pressure is too low. As of November 2014, a tire pressure monitoring system will become mandatory for newly registered passenger cars (Vehicle class M1) in the European Union. Tire sensors can help ensure optimum inflation pressure; this extends the life of a tire, reduces fuel consumption and, consequently, lowers CO2 emissions. Continental relies on these direct measuring systems with precise pressure display. With these, a sensor reads the tire pressure either at the valve or directly under the tire tread. If a second set of tires needs to be equipped with sensors, Continental already supplies the corresponding retrofit sensors under the VDO brand.

Continental extending the operational scope of future tire sensors

Continental is working with carmakers all over the world to further expand the range of features that in-tire pressure sensors can provide. Every tire loses air slowly but surely. The tire pressure sensor ensures that drivers are informed of tire pressure loss at an early stage. Therefore they do not run the risk of driving with one or more dangerously underinflated tires. Initial car models equipped with intelligent sensors from Continental automatically signal when a tire being inflated has attained the required tire pressure. The Filling Assistant is a big help when inflating tires and guarantees the right tire pressure even when non-calibrated filling stations are used. Rolling resistance is reduced as a result and the tires perform at their maximum capability in terms of safety and comfort.

Load detection gearing up for series production

Another feature about to be produced is load detection. Here, the vehicle uses software developed by Continental to specifically detect whether the maximum permissible load has been exceeded. This is very handy when setting off on vacation, for example. The electronics quickly detect a change in rolling characteristics due to excessive load and inform the driver of the respective axle load. Future driver assistance systems will use the load information to adjust their functions to the respective vehicle weight. Over the long term, this makes automated driving features safer still and even more convenient.