Coming soon: Smart tires that could help you drive better Peter Valdés-Dapena byline


Staff member
New York (CNN Business)We tend to think of tires as big circular hunks of black rubber that just roll down the road. We don't think about them much until something goes wrong and you're stuck waiting for roadside assistance or digging the spare out of the trunk.

If tires could talk, they might demand more respect.

Maybe you'd stop letting them get under-inflated and worn out. Or they could warn you about a nail in the tread that, in a couple days, will make the tire pressure warning light come on. They might even help you drive better, stop sooner and get better gas mileage.

Smart tire technology like this is already in use, with tire companies adding special sensors to certain tires. And, eventually, these technologies will become widespread, said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at the online retailer Tire Rack, because the information tires can provide is so critical.

"I absolutely foresee that happening," he said, "If, for no other reason, than that this is the groundwork for fully autonomous driving."

Self-driving cars will have enough random variables to contend with without unexpected tire problems, he said. The more warning there is of a potential problem, like an air leak or worn out treads, the better. A self-driving car also won't have an experienced human driver's feel for when the road surface is slippery or a car is getting close to skidding. Computerized tire technologies will be able to detect impending loss of traction more quickly and accurately than the stability control and traction control systems used on most cars today.