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.


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  • 35 Comments
      Skicat
      • 7 Months Ago
      I worked on Goodyear marketing for 7 years. We had research that said shopping for tires ranked below going to the dentist and above shopping for a casket in terms of consumer preference. Also, if you went checked the vehicles in any public parking lot, more than half would have at least one under inflated tire. I think that says everything one needs to know about people's concern for their tires.
      Jay
      • 7 Months Ago
      Umm, if people don't care to check their tires and replace them now why would this change their minds?
      ScottT
      • 7 Months Ago
      Pretty cool, but obviously many people just don't care. I can't tell you how many times I see people driving around on spare tires/donuts that are completely bald. If someone wants to be an idiot, there is little you can do stop them
      Sirmium
      • 7 Months Ago
      This will replace you classic tpm sensor on valve, it will do tire pressure monitoring, accurate tire temperature, tread depth.... Also not as fragile as normal sensor, and cost is the same.
      jebibudala
      • 7 Months Ago
      TPMS is the most unreliable component on a new car these days, what makes us think these would be more reliable/accurate? No matter how many idiot lights you illuminate on the dash still isn't going to replace the idiot behind the wheel.
      SpikedLemon
      • 7 Months Ago
      Maybe they should permit local meter-maids to put a boot on vehicles parked on the road with bald tires.
      Willy
      • 7 Months Ago
      Seems like a good idea on paper, but in reality those who don't care their tires are bald now, probably doesn't care w this device added as well. or simply cant afford tires. TPMS sensors okay, but amazingly fragile and pointless. Breaks easily and only alerts when pressure is very low. Bring a false security so no one checks psi regularly.
        PTC DAWG
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Willy
        If you cannot afford tires, you can't afford a car.
        SethG
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Willy
        You bring up a good point about TPMS. The sensors are fragile, expensive and not understood by owners, Service stations and tire shops are only moderately equipped to deal with them. My local shop says that 70% of the cars that come in have the tire pressure warning light on. They don't work well. People start to ignore the light. People drive with underinflated tires just as much, if not more than before. This is what happens when the government mandates a technology that isn't fully baked.
      That Guy
      • 7 Months Ago
      How long until our useless government feels the need to make this crap mandatory...just like they did tire pressure monitoring and back up cameras? If you are so irresponsible that you cannot take your finger and feel your tread or observe when your tire is low, you should not be allowed to drive.
      Rob8
      • 7 Months Ago
      I don't want to pay for more tech for the person who shouldn't be driving. I can look at my tires myself.
      mikemaj82
      • 7 Months Ago
      Just another reason to inflate the price of something that already costs an arm and a leg when it comes time to replace.
      ksrcm
      • 7 Months Ago
      OK, so Continental is thinking about great new tech. Oh, goodie! Now ... let's hope they will not do the same thing as another German company. As soon as that other German company implemented direct pressure reading sensors, pressure reading for each tire was available to European customer. To Americans, they simply displayed "tire symbol" - no matter the fact that they know WHICH tire and what was the EXACT pressure in it that it didn't like. After complaints, they modified the software and now .... gasp! ... we know which tire is low, but not what the pressure is. Unless you find a guy who knows a guy and code your BMW. Cr@p! ... did I just say that instead of "other German company"? So, don't get your panties in a bunch, Continental might think the same thing about American customers (considering all comments above, justified) and we will see said sensors never, maybe not even then.
      Indubitably
      • 7 Months Ago
      I can personally perform this task in 2 seconds... Just another way to make $$$
        Aussie Aspie
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Indubitably
        That's because you (and I) are conscientious. But most people prioritize checking things like tire pressure and tread depth lower than what colour underwear they'll be wearing today, and that's who this is aimed at. You and I may never crash due to bald tires, but millions of people around the world do every year for that very reason. And I'd happily pay the extra cost to avoid some bastard killing me, my wife or kids just because they were too lazy to spend the 2 seconds checking their tires.
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