Tires are Boring, and Pretty Much Don’t Change, Right? Not So Fast!
With so much of the attention in the automotive world being on advanced technology systems like blind spot warning, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking, one might think that not much has occurred in advancements related to tires and their performance. But it turns out that the tire companies and vehicle manufacturers have been busy moving forward with their tire-related improvements. Here are three examples:
- Airless Tires.
It looks as if a viable “airless” tire is finally moving toward availability in the market. Michelin’s “Uptis” tire is not inflated with air, unlike traditional (i.e., pneumatic) tires. It looks like a regular tire, and apparently drives like a regular tire, but it does not rely on internal air pressure to perform its duties. According to testing, the Uptis tire is both more reliable and more durable, which dramatically reduces the chances of something going wrong. Having a flat tires sucks, amiright? Well, tires like the Uptis might help make flat tires truly a thing of the past.
More information is available at https://www.autoevolution.com/news/michelin-takes-airless-uptis-tire-for-first-public-spin-drivers-are-thrilled-169307.html
- Tires that Deflate if the Brakes Fail
Brake failure is relatively uncommon, but it can be a scary and deadly situation. If your vehicle does not start, that can be inconvenient. But if it won’t stop, you’re in for real trouble. And with modern braking systems becoming more complicated (e.g., regenerative braking on EVs), the chance that something could go wrong still exists.
Enter Mercedes with a new system that will deflate the tires if there is a braking system failure. OK- having a system to help out if the brakes fail sounds good, but why in the world would you want the tires to deflate? Because the lower a tire’s air pressure, the greater its friction on the road surface. And more friction equals shorter stopping distances.
Basically, if a brake failure is detected, this system would immediately drop the tires’ air pressures, which could increase their friction on the road, and slow the vehicle down significantly faster than if the tires had remained fully inflated. And as you know, stopping even a few feet earlier can be a lifesaver…literally. Just one more example of Mercedes’ commitment to protecting the occupants of its vehicles as well as other nearby road users.
- Inflating Your Tires: Vehicles that Alert You When Your Tires are Filled
It’s hard to argue against the safety benefits of modern Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), which notify drivers when one or more of their tires’ air pressure drops below a safe level. But inflating the offending tire(s) can be not much fun. First, you have to find a working air compressor system (good luck with that, and you’d better have some quarters stuffed in the glove box to pay for it).
Then you have to air up the tire(s). But what if you don’t have a tire gauge with you? How do you know when each tire is filled to the right pressure? That is where Nissan’s “Easy-Fill Tire Alert” system comes in, currently available on 13 models available in the U.S. It uses the TPMS sensors to let you know when the air pressure is back up to the proper level!
Here’s how it works: with the engine off and the transmission in Park, leave the ignition on and start filling a tire. As you are filling the tire, the vehicle’s exterior lights flash, to let you know it is monitoring the rising pressure in the tire. Then once the proper air pressure has been reached, the vehicle’s horn honks, giving a handy signal that you’re good to go. And if you increase the air pressure too high, the vehicle lets you know that by flashing its lights three times.
Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert system is easier to use, accurate, and it takes less time, compared to using a tire gauge, doing it the old-fashioned way. And the benefits of properly inflated tires are enormous- they:
- Last longer
- Provide you with more traction
- Are more responsive to your steering and speed inputs
- Help maximize fuel mileage, and thus help reduce harmful tailpipe emissions
While it’s easy to be wowed by seemingly bigger technologies, such as Forward Collision Mitigation, sometimes it’s these smaller technology advances that improve drivers’ day-to-day experiences, making tire maintenance just a bit easier.