Tyres are one of the most essential components of today’s vehicles. Without them, road transportation would never become such an important sector as it is today. Car tyres do not get much attention compared to other advancements in the automotive industry, though, and perhaps it is because they have not seen much innovation throughout decades.
However, the history of their past developments is actually an interesting one, and even more exciting are the latest innovative tyre concepts. Manufacturers have presented quite a few tyres designed for future smart cars that rely on cutting-edge technologies and may change transportation forever.
Infographic source: https://www.oponeo.ie/blog/evolution-of-car-tyres
The Beginnings Of Tyres
The big invention of the wheel in the Bronze Age later pioneered the axles and wheel combination that today is vital to vehicular operations. It took some time but in the 19th century, finally the work done by Charles Macintosh and Charles Goodyear brought results.
The sap, which then became the basic rubber component, was discovered in the Amazon rainforest. At first, it could not endure in more problematic weather conditions but as Goodyear pioneered the vulcanisation process, rubber became a successful tyre additive. The Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson was the first to use rubber in a wheel in 1845, wrapping a few rubber tubes in leather so they would absorb the shock of the rotating wheel.
In 1888, John Boyd Dunlop created the first practical tyre and the world saw Karl Benz’s first automobile powered by petrol and using Dunlop’s tyre. In 1891, the Michelin brothers created the detachable pneumatic tyre, and various companies tried to synthesise rubber. In 1947, the Goodyear Tyre Company pioneered the tubeless tyre to compensate for the industry’s oil usage.
Around a decade later tyres were modified into the form in which they are used today. There are a few versions of this story but what’s known for sure is that the tyre standards from 1976 are very similar to those of millions of tyres sold ever since. The creation of the radial tyre is often attributed to a manufacturer named Arthur W. Savage. Nowadays, the radial tyre pulls cords together at a 90 degree angle which facilitates its use, and increases its durability and stability.
Modern Car Tyres
Radial tyre variations have been commercially released by manufacturers around the world. Today producers are aiming at lower fuel consumption and improving safety with their new tyres, applying cutting-edge technologies to their products.
In order to provide an increased driver safety and tyre longevity, the biggest market players such as Continental, Pirelli, and Bridgestone have started working on puncture-proof tyres. Different companies are trying to develop them in different ways.
For instance, Bridgestone is developing airless tyres which don’t need to be inflated. The company also released the QuietTrack – a so-called quiet tyre which uses the newest technologies to reduce road noise. Pirelli, in turn, is constantly modifying the chemical composition of their tyres.
A new generation of run flat tyres has been created by Continental. Their ContiSeal tyres are capable of sealing themselves. So if something sharp punctures the thread of such a tyre, a special fluid starts leaking around the puncture to seal it off. This improvement will greatly extend the lifespan of the average set of tyres as well as lower maintenance and production costs.
The Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli is looking to improve tyre safety too. In March of 2018, the manufacturer unveiled its Cyber Car system. Its tyres include special sensors that can communicate with the car’s onboard computers. By sending information on the internal tyre temperature and pressure or tread depth, it will immediately diagnose technical problems with car wheels.
Future Tyre Developments
The most exciting part in the history of car tyres is the one that’s still ahead of us. As the automotive sector is aiming at becoming more sustainable, green technologies are implemented in new tyre concepts.
First showed in 2017 by Goodyear, the Eagle 360 Urban Tyre is still in the research stage but it is intended to serve along with a fleet of autonomous vehicles. Equipped with a form of Artificial Intelligence it will collect the necessary data and protect the driver and passengers.
Goodyear also presented the Oxygene tyre project, where a tyre is filled with real moss. The plan is for the moss to absorb the moisture from the road and turn it into oxygen, making the tyre counteract the pollution coming from vehicles. Additionally, it is believed that the force of rotation in these advanced tyres will be able to generate electricity and power the car.
Moreover, car tyres in the future will interact with roadway obstacles to protect drivers and passengers. Goodyear is planning to create tyres which regrow their tread and Pirelli has announced the plans for 5G tyres. To prevent road incidents, apart from collecting data about the car, these tyres will also inform the driver about any dangerous road conditions around the vehicle.
The manufacturers are experimenting with tyre components to make the materials as environmentally-friendly as possible while also moving towards more sustainable recycling. Many natural substances such as corn and trees are used to produce tyres which, apart from lasting longer, will be easier to dispose of.
It is not impossible that one day the auto sector will even move beyond the ground. For the time being, however, the modern inventors are making as hard work as the first tyre creators did, bringing the most thrilling and powerful technologies to car tyres.