Slip not

Japanese engineers have developed an intelligent tyre sensor that they claim can detect cars sideslipping more quickly than any other technology, greatly improving road safety.


The Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) was developed at Yokohama Rubber. The company has launched a number of tyre pressure technologies in the past few years, and in 2004 was the first company to successfully commercialise air pressure monitoring systems for cars in Japan.


But TPMS differs from other tyre pressure systems in that it not only monitors a tyre’s pressure but also identifies the condition of the road and the movement of the tyres across its surface.


The system is designed to be used in conjunction with existing sideslip prevention technologies such as Mercedes’ Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) which automatically controls engine power and braking in each wheel to keep the car stable if its on-board computer detects a sideslip.


Yokohama claims that TPMS will be able to detect a vehicle sideslip 0.25 seconds faster than existing systems as the new advanced sensors are positioned directly inside the tyres, rather than in the wheel hub or car body.


According to spokesman Kazu Sekiguchi, this will make a huge difference to car safety. ‘This is a unique technology, and we are certain that it will contribute to much safer roads,’ he said.


The core of the new technology is the G sensor, a rugged acceleration sensor module that is positioned inside each of the tyres. The sensor, which weighs around 0.3g, can withstand vehicle speeds of up to 186mph — an acceleration of 1,000G’s. It is also extremely sensitive, and as well as monitoring the tyre’s performance and vehicle motion can detect whether the road is wet or dry.


The G sensors use built-in 3D vibration devices, which Yokohama claims are the first of their kind in the world. These detect rotation, centrifugal force and side force. Data on the vibration of the tyre and the slippage between the tyre and the road is also integrated.


But Sekiguchi said that drivers may have to wait a couple of years before the system is available in Europe. ‘We already have the TPMS system installed in some cars in Japan, but we are having some difficulties adapting the system to Europe’s radio signals, which are on a different wavelength,’ he said.


‘It may be around two years before we can work this problem out.’