It’s dangerous to have low air pressure in a tire. The tire will run much hotter, which can potentially lead to a blow-out — and on a vehicle such as a bus, that could put many lives in danger. Maintenance crews normally check each truck or bus tire manually, but a new system from Michelin lets an operator instantly obtain all the necessary information just by stopping by with a handheld device.
These “communicating tires” use the combined technologies of a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) chip to collect and forward the information.
They’ll debut this summer on buses at the Olympic Games in London, England.
“This system allows a fleet to monitor tires just by walking by the tires with the sensor picking up the information through the RFID,” says Francois Beauchamp, manager of the Field Engineering Group for Michelin Canada. There’s no word yet on whether the system will come to Canada.
The components in the tire aren’t new. Many passenger cars now come equipped with TPMS, which warns the driver when the air pressure in a tire is low. Some tires also contain RFID chips, primarily for inventory. However, Michelin says it is the first to combine them into a “full-fledged ecosystem” that instantly provides such information as the tire’s identification number, when it was manufactured, when it was put on a vehicle, and its air pressure and temperature.
The chip is built into the tire and stays with it during its lifetime. Some of its information can also be updated, such as when the tire is retreaded. The chips do not contain batteries, but are powered by electromagnetic waves when the scanner collects their data.
Michelin estimates that it takes about 15 minutes to manually identify a commercial tire and check its pressure, and that this instant readout system will leave operators more time for visual inspections and tread depth checks. It also enables crews to easily verify the identification and age of the inside tires on buses with dual rear wheels, where that information — which is molded into the side of the tire — is hidden by the outer tires.
“Monitoring the tire pressure and temperature is related to safety, because in the transit community, you’re transporting people,” Beauchamp says. “You also achieve better maintenance of your fleet, which in turn gives you better fuel economy and fewer emissions.”