AKRON — Is the "penny check" about to go the way of the buggy whip?
Based on a bevy of automated and digital tread-depth measuring devices and technologies launched recently that might be more than a hypothetical question.
In the past few weeks, Tire Business has monitored at least seven product launches in this field, both from tire companies and third-party tech companies servicing the aftermarket.
Two of the innovations — from Sumitomo Rubber Industries and Israeli tech firm Tactile Mobility Ltd. — are software developments that use a vehicle's existing array of dynamic sensors to calculate the tires' tread condition on a real-time basis.
Others — such as those from E-Solutions Professionals Pty Ltd. (ESP), Snap-on Inc., Tire Profiles Inc. and Zebra Technologies — employ the imaging capabilities of hand-held devices and smartphones to read a tire's tread and determine "tire health."
Most recently, Group Michelin disclosed it has adapted its QuickScan roll-over tread-measuring system — developed originally for the commercial sector — to the consumer area in partnership with a French vehicle inspection systems developer.
Regardless of which process takes hold, the days of sticking a penny into the tread to determine depth appear to be waning.
Here's a look at some of new technologies:
Snap-on Inc. has begun marketing a handheld mobile tread scanner, the Total Shop Solutions (TSS) TreadReader, that the company says does not require an internet connection to perform a complete tire scan.
The TreadReader measures a tire's surface and generates a 3D image of the tread showing details such as tread depth and information about the tire's condition, according to Conway, Ark.-based Snap-on.
The device is designed to read tires even when they are dirty and to ignore anomalies — such as wear bars or stones that could lead to false readings. It can be used in workshops, service centers, inspection lanes, vehicle depots, mobile tire fitters and roadside inspections, both in open areas and confined workshops, Snap-on said.
The TreadReader can read tires on passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks and utility trailers and provide a scan report for readings of one to six tires, Snap-on said.
To operate the device, users enter a vehicle's license plate or VIN number, scan each tire and view the scan details. The mobile app provides instructions through the process. Once the scan is complete, a summary screen shows the 3D details of the tires.
"Our new TreadReader handheld scanner is a rugged, compact and lightweight mobile device that can help shops provide thorough tire inspection services with reliable accuracy," Leandro Camargo, product manager for Snap-on, said.
The system — developed originally by British technology company Sigmavision Ltd. — also can generate an alignment assessment based on the tire-wear measurements, Snap-on said, and alert the technician to misalignment issues it perceives.
Snap-on purchased the assets related to TreadReader from Sigmavision in January 2020. The TreadReader suite of products comprises handheld devices and drive-over ramps that read 3D images of tire treads to an accuracy level sufficient to determine the need for new tires or tire alignments (accuracy of
The cost of the TreadReader varies throughout the U.S. and Canada. Interested parties are asked to contact a Snap-on representative for more information.
Readings are saved to the TreadManager cloud software and are available to view when an internet connection is made. Multiple results can be stored until there is a connection.
E-Solution Professionals: Monocular Tread Depth Reader
Australian web development software company E-Solution Professionals Pty Ltd. (ESP) developed technology it claims will allow consumers to calculate tire tread depth by using the camera on their smartphones.
ESP said its Monocular Tread Depth Reader uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow the phone's computer to perceive and record depth accurately and easily.
The tool is expected to become available for use commercially for wholesalers and retailers in May.
According to the company, the tool was developed with help from Precision Automotive Equipment Australia and Hunter Engineering Co.'s Quick Tread Edge drive-over scanner with an integrated license-plate recognition camera.
ESP said the technology has been "extensively tested" at a Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia workshop.
Kevin Marley, managing director of E-Solution Professionals in Dubuque, Iowa, said the company researched how vehicle owners determined whether their tires needed to be replaced.
"At best, people would say that they would look at the tires and hazard a guess and they would take the vehicle to a tire shop if they were concerned," he said.
"We also found people had a high resistance to calling into a tire store in person. They much preferred to go to the store's online website. If the store did not have an online website, they would typically look for one that did," Mr. Marley said.
Mr. Marley said eventually the technology will be refined to detect tire defects and low tread depth, and potentially, flat tires and bad alignment.
ESP's flagship product is Tireweb, a B2B e-commerce application that transacts more than $2 billion in sales for customers of the tire industry.