In this Q&A, he tells us about tires and cars that can speak the same language, autonomous driving and its implications for the tire industry and a quantum leap in the form of TMS.
In his view, with the prevalence of autonomous cars, tire-buying decisions will be made on total-cost-of-ownership rather than on high speed performance, design or braking distances.
Q: First, please identify one significant technical development in the tire industry over recent years, and explain its importance?
A: The tire mounted sensor (TMS) is a quantum leap in tire development. Not unlike a human foot sole, it will provide the vehicle with a sense of what is going on at the touchpoints between car and road. Permanent information of grip/slippage or road condition per tire, combined with knowledge of the current load on each single tire will tremendously increase safety margins. This will allow significant shortening of braking distances, or reduce tire cost (when keeping safety at the current level). Furthermore the TMS will monitor the condition of the tire (including wear, pressure and age) and will allow more efficient preventive maintenance.
On top of that, tonnes of tire-, car- and driver-related data will be generated allowing for new business models among which the vertical integration of tire management services into the tire makers business model is the most prominent one.
Q: What do you see as the main barriers to the development of the tire manufacturing industry over the next few years?
A: Capitalising on the development of TMS requires closing the last technological gaps in the picture, for example energy harvesting to power the TMS over a tire lifetime. However, a far bigger barrier is the need for standardisation of this technology as it requires the tire to “talk” to every car and every car to “understand” every tire. This is not just about “languages” (frequencies, protocols and the like). The really difficult part concerns methods and procedures for deducing complex variables, like grip from simple 3D positioning information and physical conditions like temperature or pressure.
All this does not only require agreement on a standard. It involves sharing of knowledge and data between tire makers and car manufacturers. This includes opening up proprietary technology positions to the competition and to settle the evolving fight for the end customer access between car and tire maker.
Q: Looking into the crystal ball, what big changes do you expect to see in tire manufacture and supply by 2030?
A: As always change does mean threat and opportunity to the industry. Opportunities from the Internet of Things include the potential re-construction of value chains to the favour of tire industry players willing to move quickly and get rid of outdated customs and practices. Tire makers becoming service providers for their tires or even becoming tire rental companies. Or why not taking care for the whole car as the tire will become the only significant remaining wear part in an electric vehicle.
At the same time, autonomous driving will change the customer base and customer preferences. We will have lesser cars on a much higher mileage with a big overall increase in total tire mileage. Cars will rather be owned by transportation companies than by private customers. Consumer brands and marketing, ultra-high performance tires and fancy features will lose market share.
Tire-buying decisions will be made on total-cost-of-ownership rather than on high speed performance, design or braking distances. We will see fewer brands, less tire dimensions, bigger production lots and much lower average prices.