In 2011, Goodyear announced it was working on self-inflating tires, employing a process it called “Air Maintenance Technology.” While early concepts were based on passenger car tires, Goodyear has announced that it’s developed Air Maintenance Technology tires for commercial trucks as well, with trials set to begin in 2013.
As Autoblog points out, the technology is deceptively simple. When a tire-mounted sensor detects that air pressure has dropped below a threshold level, a valve in the tire’s sidewall opens. As the tire rolls, the weight of the vehicle compresses a tube mounted to this valve, pumping air into the tire.
When the desired pressure is reached, the valve closes to prevent any air loss, even in commercial truck tires with inflation pressures in excess of 100 psi. The Air Maintenance Technology tires are even designed to withstand retreading, an important consideration for budget-minded trucking companies and owner-operators.
Goodyear is quick to point out that developing the tires for commercial, heavy-duty applications is more challenging that developing Air Maintenance Technology passenger car tires. Since truckers drive significantly more miles each year than average motorists, Goodyear will be able to generate data on the tires more quickly, too.
The outcome of next year’s commercial fleet trials will likely determine if or when the technology will trickle down to passenger cars. If it works as described, we could see the widespread implementation of such tires within the next decade, although we’re not parting with our beloved tire pressure gauges just yet. Still, we'd bet this has a higher likelihood of reaching the market than other tire innovations, such as "airless tires."