Continental tiresEnlarge Photo
Tires, oil, lights. Three easy checks that any driver can make on their vehicle in a matter of minutes, but all vital to ensure your car is always ready for the road.
Tires are perhaps the most important of these checks, both to check their condition and also tread depth. A healthy, correctly-inflated tire is one that allows you to stop and handle even in poor weather conditions, ensures the best fuel economy, and minimizes the risk of dangerous blowouts at high speed. German firm Continental aims to make your tires even easier to check in the future, developing new tire sensors that don't just read pressure, but load and tread depth too. It should ensure that all drivers are kept aware of the state of their tires--whether they're handy with a wrench or less than fastidious about their car's health.
Legal tire tread depth in most U.S. states is 1/16 of an inch, though it's often advised to change your tires before this point to ensure they're capable of dealing with adverse weather. A common tip to measure the legal minimum is to take a penny and insert it into the tread, with Lincoln's head upside-down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, your tires have hit the legal minimum, and need replacing.
Continental's technology is a little more high-tech. Engineers developed the tread depth sensors based on the knowledge that a tire's rolling characteristics change over time. By conducting intensive tests, tire and electronics developers developed a data set that can determine when a tire's tread gets to a pre-determined low value--then signaling to the driver that a tire change is soon required. The technology could be taken even further, should the driver require it, by informing their local dealership or service center that a tire change is due.
The tires still contain traditional tread wear indicators, so those who like to check their own tires regularly still have an easy reference point to measure. And the sensor systems still record and relay other data on the tires--such as tire pressure, letting drivers know when one tire is lower than the rest. Load detection is also employed, using sensors to detect any sudden changes in rolling characteristics that signal a change in load--potentially useful for those who regularly haul large loads, or tow trailers.