Vehicles already use chassis and body sensors to detect when they are losing traction or are in danger of rolling over.
A technology being researched in Europe could move those sensors closer to the road.
A European industry consortium has successfully completed tests of tires embedded with traction sensors.
The study, which was made public in May, could pave the way for auto makers to rely on real-time readings of road and pavement conditions to guide a vehicle's safety features.
A vehicle equipped with sensor-embedded tires is undergoing winter road tests in Finland, said Piero De La Pierre, strategic innovation manager for Magneti Marelli Electronic Systems S.p.A. He is one of the project's participants.
Mr. De La Pierre recently presented a paper on the research in Detroit during the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.
The project may have solved two critical problems that have prevented the industry from pursuing intelligent tires.
It developed a way to transmit steady power to isolated tire sensors, which cannot be connected to the vehicle's existing power supply. And it found a way to obtain data from the sensors quickly enough to be a useful part of a safety system.
``Our desire was to see whether this was physically possible and it was,'' Mr. De La Pierre said. ``The idea was that it could be useful to get information related to exerted forces on the vehicle directly at the point at which the force is generated.''
The idea of intelligent tires has been kicked around since the mid-1990s, when German tire maker Continental A.G. proposed the idea of taking readings from tire sensors.
The current project brings together several players to work out some of the technical kinks. In addition to Magneti Marelli, the group included DaimlerChrysler A.G., tire maker Pirelli S.p.A., VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, the University of Helsinki and the University of Aachen.