Akron, Ohio – As vehicles become more complex, including the development of autonomous automobiles (AVs), Goodyear sees tires becoming even more important for safe travel.
This development direction underscores the need for collaboration – even potentially with competitors – to create the tires of tomorrow, said Goodyear chief technology officer Chris Helsel at a virtual keynote address to the 39th annual Tire Society conference on 28 Sept.
Part of Helsel's job as CTO is to consider just how travel will change in the years ahead and ensure that his company is providing products that meet upcoming needs.
AVs are coming, he said, and it's not a matter of if, but when.
And tires, Helsel said, will play an outsized role in safety as they represent touchpoints to the road.
"The autonomous vehicle tipping point is coming, and we see this as a huge opportunity to bring the tire an intelligent technology … enabling what will be the future vehicle drivers," he said. "You may be thinking, 'How can the tire help enable autonomous vehicles?'
"When you take away the driver, you take away the feel of the road that could have come through the hands on the wheel, your body in the seat and your feet on the pedals," Helsel said.
"In an AV, that job, the feel of the road, is best done at the four points of contact with the road, the tires, to optimise and integrate with driverless vehicle systems looking at everything from stopping distance to ride comfort to predictive maintenance."
Tires play a vital role in the development of AVs and growing popular of EVs (electric vehicles), Helsel said. Goodyear is leveraging the tire to drive smarter mobility and help advance more sustainable and superior forms of transportation, he said.
"Our industry's critical position, touching the ground, can help create the world's greatest driver when synched with the systems of the vehicle and uniquely tuned to the type of vehicle," Helsel said.
"This is an area we are exploring, and once you introduce the touchpoint of the tire with the intelligence of the vehicle you can create the ultimate riding machine."
This evolution will generate more change in the next 10 years than the tire and automobile industry have seen in the last 50 years, he said.
"We are embracing the opportunities of the future mobility ecosystems and pursuing disrupted collaboration with longtime partners and startups," he said.
A “disruptive collaboration”, said the technology chief, allows Goodyear to use its expertise with traditional tire offerings along with forward-looking partners on future mobility solutions.
In terms of collaboration among competing tire makers, Helsel said it was important that the industry ultimately create common standards they all can use when developing systems to integrate smarter tires into tomorrow's vehicles.
"There are so many different sizes of tires, in different segments — all season, summer, winter — that can be on a vehicle at any given time and then across so many manufacturers, the scalability of a solution, if it's unique to each tire and vehicle combination, is pretty complex. So managing that complexity will be on the critical path to scale," he said.