Want off-road traction, capable of getting you anywhere you care to go, even through sand and mud? Done, but don’t expect to carry much speed into a corner on pavement, and don’t expect a quiet (or even bearable) highway ride.
While today’s all-season radial tires offer a reasonable blend of ride quality and handling across a wide variety of road and environmental conditions, they’re still sub-optimal for winter conditions, spirited driving or off-road exploration. The ideal tire would automatically adjust configuration and even compound to optimize itself for any condition.
If that sounds like the stuff of science fiction, don’t tell that to German researcher Detlef Riemer, who heads a team of researchers at the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. Phys.Org explains that Riemer and his team are working on “adaptive tires,” which self-adjust for optimum grip and fuel efficiency, regardless of terrain or weather.
The tire contains embedded sensors that recognize a change in terrain, as well as changes in environmental conditions. As Tire Business explains, actuators in the tire’s tread can then reconfigure the tread’s geometry to optimize grip for conditions.
The materials being tested include flexible actuators, piezo-ceramic actuators, shape memory alloys and other “smart materials,” all of which need to work in harmony to produce the desired results.
Don’t expect to see adaptive tires at your local warehouse club store anytime soon, though. Still in the concept stage, such a tire will likely prove to be years away from any commercial launch, assuming standards for safety and durability can even be met.