Over time, Struck’s vision is that tires will become part of an ecosystem where cars communicate with their environment.
“This is necessary to meet the future demands [in autonomous vehicles], but is also a great business opportunity,” Struck added.
As part of this, Conti’s focus has been centred on ‘sense’, otherwise known as intelligent tires.
First steps of this process are already taken with devices such as tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
But the ambition is to go beyond this point and enable tires to measure, for instance, load, slip and road conditions.
This, according to Struck, will create both a service to the user and data for other systems to use, hence contributing to the ecosystem.
In its vision, Conti can see a continuum of development of sensors into the future. TMPS sensors, which were solely for the purpose of pressure gauging, are now improved with automatic learning and can also transmit data to the user’s smart phone.
In the future, however, Conti expects the tire to be integrated into the whole vehicle system, and to be able to, for instance, recognise profile depth, and communicate it to other parts of the vehicle such as chassis solutions.
Sensors of the future, according to Struck, are likely to measure forces in different directions or depth of water on the road surface and feed this back to the driver or other systems of the car.
In the field of ‘extended mobility’, Conti believes that tires will have other duties than just carrying the vehicle safely. They will contribute to comfort of the vehicle using silent tires or novel materials technologies.
And ultimately, Conti’s next-generation intelligent tires, ContiSense and ContiAdapt, are a culmination of the two fields of extended mobility and smart tires in one product.
Sensors in the tire can sense the condition of the road and change the footprint of the tire, with the press of a button, from traction mode, to efficient mode, to comfort mode and to wet mode.
“You can change the rim width, you can change the pressure of the tire, and this is not just a fancy prototype to make our CEO look good,” said Struck.
According to the Conti official, such tires are already fitted on regular vehicles which are used in Conti’s R&D campus.
“We believe this is the future and this is the area that has not been the focus of tire manufacturers before,” noted Struck.
Getting there, however, requires understanding vehicle systems and collaboration with suppliers of other vehicle systems, as well as “a lot of software”. And this is where Struck believes tire makers need to “become competent”.