DETROIT—Imagine a tire that could detect icy surfaces, then soften itself for better traction. Or how about a tire that could detect moisture, then change its tread pattern to prevent hydroplaning? Such innovations may be decades away, but one expert said he believes ``smart tires'' could revolutionize the automotive industry.
``Smart tire technology is in its infancy,'' said Brian Logan, a Goodyear researcher who laid out his smart-tire scenario recently at the Convergence 96 conference on automotive electronics in Detroit.
Automotive suppliers are trying to develop more sophisticated components without additional cost, complexity or weight. At the same time, suppliers are tinkering with electronic sensors in everything from seats to tires.
For example, tire makers already are developing smart tires for the trucking industry. These tires can monitor their own air pressure and temperature and even provide an electronic identification tag for inventory control.
Eventually, the industry will develop smart tires for cars and light trucks, too, and Mr. Logan predicted such tires will be in widespread use in five years or so.
He also foresees a day when a smart tire could alert both the motorist and manufacturer if it starts losing air. The tire maker then would transmit the locations of nearby repair shops to the motorist, who could limp to safety on run-flat tires.