Interview with Traction Summit 2019 Presenter Aaron Franklin, Tyrata, Inc.

Maintaining Tires

With the changing environment for vehicles, (e.g. large auto fleets, ride sharing services, autonomous vehicles), maintaining tire wear treads is becoming even more critical. Aaron Franklin, Chief Technology Officer with Tyrata Inc., will be one of the experts at the annual Traction Summit Conference, Oct. 16-18 in San Jose, California, discussing new technologies that could help improving monitoring of tires.

In advance of his presentation, Franklin touched on some key issues companies such as Tyrata are addressing to ensure proper tire usage.

 

 

Q: The industry has been pursuing ways to monitor tire wear for some time now. Can you give us an update on the current technology landscape, what has been considered and what is being considered today?

Aaron Franklin (AF): Efforts to monitor tire tread have been underway for decades, with significant market need for, and customer interest in, scalable and cost-effective methods to measure tread depth on demand. For fleets and service bays, there has been some recent success in deploying laser-based systems that scan tread information as a vehicle drives over. However, these systems tend to be expensive and have operational limitations that inhibit their functionality and scalability for all environments.

At this point, it appears that the most desired solution is wireless tread depth sensors integrated directly into tires. The most widely pursued approach for realizing wireless monitoring is an indirect method where a variety of sensors are integrated inside a tire to measure such things as tangential acceleration and pressure. A large volume of such data is then applied to a complex algorithm that provides an indirect estimation of tread depth. This indirect method has been attempted in various forms by most major tire manufacturers for quite a few years, yet a fully operational solution has remained elusive. Challenges related to cost, power consumption, complexity, accuracy and so forth appear to be limiting widespread application. At least, these issues are what is discussed most about this approach in the scientific literature. For these reasons, Tyrata embarked upon developing the IntelliTreadTM sensor technology, which offers a low-cost, direct measurement of tread depth at low power, wirelessly from within the tire.  

 

Q: There have been a slew of new tire innovations that may become commercialized over the next several years (e.g., Michelin Uptis airless tire Prototype); how does a company such as Tyrata respond to these changes? Or does it?

AF: These concept tires are exciting in how they could transform tire use and performance. And yet very few (if any) of them suggest dramatic changes to the rubber that meets the road. Nearly every foreseeable future tire design is still made of rubber that will wear down and impact the tire’s performance, safety, and efficiency. Hence, sensors that can monitor tire wear will be a critical aspect of future tires, regardless of how futuristic the tire structures get! This is particularly true as emerging trends towards electric vehicles, ridesharing, mega-fleets and autonomous vehicles come to fruition. All these trends implicitly require low-cost, scalable, on-demand tire tread wear sensing.

 

Q: What do you see as the greatest needs in the marketplace?

AF: The greatest needs are related to knowing tires better. This starts by having a low-cost method for gathering tread wear data that is actionable for fleet managers and customers, whether the data comes from sensors inside the tire or drive-over systems in service lanes and depots. Since Tyrata first engaged with the marketplace, we have learned of significant pain points felt by fleet operators that have no scalable solution to know the state of their tires, even when those tires roll through the same garage doors day-in and day-out.

Beyond fleets and depots, making tires smarter is the most effective way to fill the needs in the marketplace. A smart tire is one that can communicate its health, which includes tread depth as well as pressure, to the systems and/or people that can act. This automated feedback loop will increase efficiency of tire usage, safety of vehicle operators, and profitability of operations. It is something we hear over and over from across the market: There is a real need for a scalable solution to know the status of each tire in real-time. In response, Tyrata’s product portfolio has been designed to deliver solutions to these needs in the most efficient manner possible.

 

Q: What are some of the biggest advantages to having wireless sensing of tire wear compared to the sensors presently incorporated in tires or manual techniques for measuring tread depth being used today? In short, what is the comparative impact of your technology?

AF: The bottom line is scalability and removal of required human interaction. We’ve heard from some folks that they can manually monitor their own tire tread. Yet, studies have shown that 1 in 3 Americans don’t even know when their tires are bald – that’s staggering and rather terrifying. But even if we all monitored our own tires effectively, what happens if you are responsible for 30,000 tires. That’s a modest-sized fleet. Fleets cannot cost effectively rely on manual labor to monitor tires. So, for current fleets and in the future of ridesharing and autonomous vehicles, a scalable, automated solution for tire tread monitoring must be part of the equation for both safety and operational efficiency.

Pressure sensing is part of the equation, and tire pressure monitoring systems have already been transformative for tire safety and maintenance. However, it’s important to realize that tire pressure only provides a single aspect of tire health, and good tire pressure does not equate to good tire health. We believe that wireless sensing of tire wear is a critical component of the future vehicle’s central nervous system, bringing a key aspect of tire health to the consumer or fleet operator in real time.  

 

Q: Can you update us on the development of your IntelliTread sensor, why it is unique compared to other technologies out there, and what kind of testing and validation you have realized?

AF: The IntelliTreadTM technology has realized several significant milestones in the last six months. As the only direct measurement approach for wirelessly monitoring tread depth, there has been much to learn about tires and how our sensor can be optimized for best performance. We have now validated the ability of the sensor to monitor tread depth changes on a vast assortment of tires. Further, through collaborations with tire manufacturers, we have been performing tests of our IntelliTreadTM sensors installed and operating in full tires that are exposed to real-world conditions of different pressure, temperature, and load. We have also deployed our sensing technology in a low-cost, drive-over system. All our lab results are very encouraging, and we have recently begun pilot testing.

 

Q: What is your vision for implementing sensors in tires?

AF: Based on many customer conversations, we have developed a portfolio of products that give our customers the option of sensor-based monitoring of tires from both inside and outside the tire. There are countless fleet operators in urgent need of a low-cost method for measuring tread at the depot, and we are already testing a drive-over system in the field to address this need. Tyrata’s IntelliTreadTM Drive-Over System (DOS) provides a low-cost option for measuring tread as a vehicle drives over the small speed bump-like system, which sends the data to the Tyrata cloud for customer-specific analytics to be performed leading to actionable information provided to suit the customer’s needs.

The drive-over deployment of IntelliTreadTM gives fleet customers access to tread wear monitoring right now. We expect at least some of these customers to transition to the IntelliTreadTM internal tread sensor in the future, but for many fleets a depot system may be the lowest cost option. In other cases, for example for airplane tires, autonomous vehicles, consumer vehicles or any situation where the location of the vehicle is not regularly directed to a specific depot, the internal tread sensor is a must. Collection of tire wear data for these applications will become completely real-time and autonomous, sending the tread data to the client organization from anywhere on the road.

 

Q: Can/should your wireless sensing technology be incorporated with other data being generated by newer vehicles?

AF: Absolutely. Our mission is to help customers to know the state of their tires. This means not only tread depth, but also pressure in real time. There are many potential advantages to having both, along with other data from the tire, and Tyrata has a long-term technological vision of bringing increasing intelligence to tires in this way. In the near-term, the plan is to help customers know their tread depth – a currently inaccessible, critical metric.

 

Q: Different vehicles, different geographies, different countries, different requirements (if any). How will Tyrata respond to these differences? Does this matter with the wireless sensor products?

AF: There are many unique challenges to managing the data that our sensors will generate. We are deeply aware of these from a technical level and have world-leading experts on our scientific advisory board in the areas of vehicle data networks and machine learning. The reality is, Tyrata will design a sensor-data product to suit the customer’s needs. In some cases, customers simply want the data to be sent to and analyzed in the Tyrata cloud and then presented to them via an accessible software platform. Other customers, such as vehicle OEMs, may want the tread wear data integrated into their CAN bus systems, which we can work with them to do. One thing is certain: There’s no reason for Tyrata to tell customers how to get their data. We expect to have multiple options for data handling, where/how data is transmitted, and we are already working with customers to adapt to their specific needs. Given our expertise in this area, combined with our extensive data analytics experience, we are confident in our ability to provide the best solution.

 

 

To learn more about how wireless tire monitoring systems could revolutionize the tire industry, register to attend the annual Traction Summit Conference. To register, click here. https://www.tractionsummit.com/event-registrations