WASHINGTON (June 18, 2001)—Continental Teves Inc. is ready to license its Intelligent Tire technology to other tire makers and believes there will be eager takers.
So said Continental Teves President William Kozyra June 12.
The tire, with magnetized metal particles embedded in the sidewall, is about two years from production. It is to become an integral part of the company's next-generation stability control system. The tires will serve as virtual sensors, alerting the system when a vehicle begins to go out of control.
Vehicle manufacturers who install the system will likely want to offer customers tire brand options, Mr. Kozyra said. And there is the aftermarket—hence the need for licensing.
Mr. Kozyra and other Continental Teves officials were in Washington for three days of interviews and demonstrations of company tire, brake and suspension technologies for capital-based media, safety groups, congressional staff and administration officials.
“Our goal is not to influence regulatory decisions,” the president insisted before the company held ride-and-drive demonstrations at a professional sports stadium parking lot several miles from Capitol Hill.
Yet, in his Washington appearances, Mr. Kozyra repeatedly emphasized a company slogan: “Safety is a standard, not an option.”
And when asked what he would think if safety regulators decide on their own that government should encourage or require use of devices sold by Continental Teves, Mr. Kozyra responded:
“It wouldn't be a bad idea, but that's not the approach we've taken to promote our technology.”
As it is, the company expects sales of its control system—called Electronic Stability Program, or ESP—to increase from about 1.4 million a year worldwide now to about 4.3 million in two years.
About half the current sales are in the U.S.
Mr. Kozyra said that adding the Intelligent Tire will improve performance of ESP while reducing the overall cost of the system by a “triple-digit” amount. That will be accomplished by eliminating the need for costly yaw-rate sensors in the vehicle.
The stability system currently costs a vehicle buyer about $800.
Other companies make stability systems, but Continental Teves officials said their tire, which can help sense when a vehicle is starting to go out of control, skid or tip over, is unique.
Asked about what complex new technologies mean for vehicle repair businesses, Mr. Kozyra said most of them should not be adversely affected. Most of the systems can be repaired by simply replacing modularized units, he added.
Moreover, Continental Teves Chief Engineer Phil Headley said people who worry about the reliability of computers should not equate the all-too-familiar failures in the home and at the office with the electronics going into vehicles.
He said the vehicle suppliers control the sources of software and limit the amount of code fed into the devices.
“You simply cannot reboot the car. That is not an option,” he said.
Mr. Stoffer writes for Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.