Michelin engineering support and operational marketing manager Charles Donahoe has said that tread design changes were running a distant second to that of tyre architecture in the brand’s research laboratories.
The next major development, however, was seen as the ‘connected’ tyre that communicates wear and other factors with a vehicle’s engine management and electronic stability control (ESC) to fine-tune the operation of such systems.
However, do not expect this development in the near future.
“Tread design between Pilot Super Sport and Pilot Sport 4S is visual and it has a big influence, but where we’ve really been able to make the biggest improvements is in the compound changes and in those functional aspects,” Mr Donahoe explained.
“Under cornering force and heavy load, the contact patch changes shape and while tread design and tread pattern has an influence, the biggest influence is the architecture, so how the tyre functions when it’s pushed really hard.
“We (are starting) to understand more how we can get these elastomers to deliver different performance characteristics and work within wide temperature ranges. This really is the big breakthrough at the moment, in the understanding of those elastomers and how to mix them to really exploit (performance).”
Mr Donahoe further revealed that “the compounds are completely different” in the new Pilot Sport 4S compared with its predecessor, the seven-year-old Pilot Super Sport.
The next major development goal is to have a connected tyre. We’ve all got our smartphones (and) smart watches that record hours of sleep, heart rate, health, fitness, hours spent exercising. We’d love to have a connected tyre, where you monitor temperature, tread life, age of tyre, all of these elements that would ultimately contribute to safer driving.
“We’re talking about a world where there’s maybe no need for traffic lights, because if everything is connected then it’s all in sync. I think ultimately this larger grid is what tyres will be connected to. You’ll have a tyre that can talk to the car, a car that can talk to the larger network.”
He discussed ‘Run-Flats’, a universally unpopular development in tyre technology, admitting that the “initial drawbacks are still there (but) they’ve just been reduced,” some car brands were keeping up the pressure on Michelin for progressing the technology that allows buyers to drive briefly on a punctured tyre.
“BMW and Mercedes are the key drivers in pushing run-flat, but not for a sports application.”