Goodyear, TDK Partnership Drives IoT Tire Intelligence

Published: February 13, 2024

The companies are testing intelligent, connected tires that detect road and tire conditions while driving and transmitting relevant data

Global tire company Goodyear is partnering with electronics provider TDK Corporation to test connected tire sensors to make it safer for the driver.

The sensors, using TDK’s Piezoelectric material to harvest energy and sense conditions such as strain, speed and impact, will leverage AI on the edge by decoding data from sensors to identify conditions and determine whether, and how often, that data should be sent to a car’s onboard system or to a driver.

The technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to forward data wirelessly, although the companies may test other IoT technologies as well.

With the collaboration, TDK Corporation, an electronic components company, aims to accelerate adoption of integrated intelligent hardware and software into tires and vehicle ecosystems, says Jim Tran, TDK USA’s CEO.

Safety First

The goal first and foremost is safety, Tran says. The solution is aimed at creating a sensor network that identifies driving conditions and related safety risks. The system would then provide the appropriate information to a driver, fleet manager, or even to a vehicle’s own on-board system to adjust to those conditions.

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Although new cars are being built with features that leverage sensor intelligence, the use of sensors in tires is still limited. That is a shortcoming TDK wants to address, Tran said.

“The only thing that sits between the vehicle and the road, is your tires, and until now there haven’t been any sensors that really can give you rich information,” about the road, and tire, as well as how they are interacting, according to Tran.

Existing Tire Pressure Systems

Current vehicle tires are required to have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) built into the valve stem that detect either too little or too much pressure. The data is sent to the car’s software system via 430 MHz.

With this system a built-in coin cell battery is designed to last for about six or eight years, after which the sensors would need to be replaced. That process can be expensive. Tran adds that the amount of data being collected is limited and could not be sent via the existing 430 MHz connection.

Last year, TDK demonstrated its InWheelSense self-powered sensing solution that consists of a ring of sensors measuring conditions and forward related data as the tire is in operation.

InWheelSense leverages TDK’s piezoelectric ceramic material not only capturing sensor data such as strain, but can harvest energy based on the strain generated as the tire rotates.

Gaining Rich Data from Tires

Additionally, TDK’s solution consists of more sensors including accelerometer, temperature and gyro detection. It can use BLE – which enables transmission of larger amounts of data –  but also requires more power than standard tire pressure systems. To accommodate that need, the system leverages the power generated by InWheelSense.

Therefore, says Tran, “InWheelSense solves [power and sensor detail] problems by collecting richer information and providing longer operational life.”

The sensor material is positioned in between the wheel and the tire in such a way that when the wheel rotates, it strains the sensor and the resulting mechanical kinetic energy is captured and converted to an electrical charge.

Use of AI

Additionally, says Tran, the sensor system has a built-in processor with AI to recognize patterns and determine whether to transmit sensor readings based on those patterns. For instance, it could use AI to determine if a tire impact is the result of a pothole.

Such data could not only be sent to the vehicle’s onboard software, the car’s own system could also forward it to the cloud for an automated form of crowdsourcing to link the pothole to a GPS based location. In that way other drivers could be alerted to an approaching pothole.

Goodyear and TDK will be testing the best application and positioning of sensor technology in the tire, and focus on not only safety benefits, but the durability and longevity of the system.

Extensive Testing Ahead

As Tran points out, “the tire is a very hostile environment,” so the sensor system will need to withstand wide temperature swings, heavy impacts, and long-term strain.

“A lot of testing is needed and Goodyear is the ideal partner for that effort,” Tran says. Testing may include determining the amount of power generation that’s possible, and if a battery is necessary.

According to Tran, the goal is to take a conservative approach, and focus on safety and longevity rather than speed of development.

Identifying Slippery Roads

There are numerous use cases for the technology ahead, especially for commercial vehicles. The sensor could help delivery vans, trucks or cars identify slippery conditions. In the case of electric vehicles, the built-in control system could respond to sensor data by reducing the amount of torque from the engine, to help tires prevent loss of traction.

For commercial vehicle fleets, uses in which management can view conditions across all their vehicles include identifying potential problems such as an overheating tire.

That data not only provides a safety mechanism, but help companies improve mileage efficiency by ensuring tires have the proper amount of pressure.

Agricultural Vehicles

The conditions that a farming vehicle’s tires detect could benefit a company that provides those vehicles, or the farm where work is being conducted.

The sensors could, for instance, detect high wheel speed, indicating the spinning of a tire. In that way, they can oversee how the vehicle is being operated, and when a problem is occurring.

While TDK is initially testing the technology with BLE to transmit data, there could be other communication options, Tran says.

Searching for Best Uses

While BLE works well with a small number of tires on a single vehicle, a BLE network would be challenged by a tractor trailer that had 18 wheels, all transmitting at once to an onboard BLE beacon.

Selecting the best transmission technology for the highly metallic environment is another challenge the companies will be testing.

“I hope that we can demonstrate that we can bring value both to Goodyear and to TDK,” Tran said, “with advanced sensing in a tire that gives these analytics that can really make the vehicle safer as we move into the electric vehicle era.”

Key Takeaways:
  • Goodyear and TDK will be developing and testing how sensor technology in tires can benefit future vehicles.
  • The Piezo material in the TDK sensor can detect friction as well as generate its own power.