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60 Seconds With Dr. James Popio From Smithers Rapra

Dr. James Popio will open up the 2018 Traction Summit with a presentation on the global tire market. Ahead of his presentation, Dr. Popio gave us an exclusive Q&A around what this year's theme means for the tire industry, what opportunities autonomous vehicles represent for the tire industry and what mobility trends the industry should be paying attention to.

Explain the theme of Traction 2018,Driving the Tire Industry Into The Future, and what that means for the tire industry?

The ultimate goal of this year’s traction conference has been to connect sensor designers, developers and integrators with tire designers and technologists along with the ultimate customer ... the Original Equipment Manufacturer.  Will the new, more integrated vehicle experience need more information from the tire or will it just be a nice to have?   What technical challenges will the addition of these technologies present to vehicle and software designers for both operation and maintenance of a connected vehicle?   These are some of the questions we hope to explore in detail.

What opportunities do autonomous vehicles present for the tire industry?

In addition to the delivery of data to assist the autonomous control systems in the vehicle, the autonomous vehicle may adjust the requirements for traditional performance characteristics in tires.  For example, tires that deliver a quiet and comfortable ride to a driver who is simply focusing on riding versus driving the vehicle. Durability and rolling resistance requirements will also be critical to the final product. This will present some traditional and non-traditional opportunities for tire manufacturers and suppliers to rise to the challenge.

What is the role of smart and connected tires in enabling tomorrow’s vehicles? 

The role of connected tires is still being developed.  Vehicle manufacturers and the regulators will continue to help define what must happen in the future to develop a robust and safe autonomous control system.  Can the tires sense conditions rapidly enough to help the vehicles make decisions? This is just one of the many areas being explored.

What mobility trends should the tire industry be paying attention to?  

ACES - Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared. Not only are manufacturers looking at autonomous technologies, but they’re also exploring electric drivetrains. This presents a whole different set of requirements and challenges for tire manufacturers. Given the pace of innovation and market conditions, tire manufacturers are having to tackle the electric drivetrains currently as they explore future solutions to connectivity and inclusion in the autonomous system. Traditional vehicle ownership is also being challenged. Car sharing, ride hailing, and new subscription models will challenge traditional business models.

What are some of the biggest challenges for those working on future tire solutions?

Knowing what the customer needs and wants is key. Because technology is changing and evolving at such a rapid pace, companies must balance the newest technical capability with what the market will accept from multiple angles (e.g. cost, integration, ease of maintenance, etc.).

How does the Traction Summit help to combat those challenges?  

The summit is designed to bring customers and their voices together to develop solutions for the future. By providing a forum for sharing the newest technology in the industry today, collectively we can begin to develop relationships with companies across the value chain to begin to piece together the path forward.