A first—Pirelli now equips as standard, a tire with sensors that can talk to a car!
Pirelli’s Cyber Tire system, made up of a sensor in each tire that gathers vital data for safe driving, is linked to software integrated into the car’s onboard computer. That car is the McLaren Artura complete with sensor-equipped tires: a hybrid supercar packed with technology for an even safer and more involved driving experience.
Cyber Tire technology offers a plethora of information to the car and driver: the tire’s ‘passport’—the type of tire, a winter or summer version, prescribed pressure, load index and speed rating—as well as current running information, i.e. temperature and pressure.
Pirelli’s cyber tire
This information—constantly monitored and transmitted in real time—is vital when it comes to safety. It is also delivered, with greater precision compared to traditional sensors on the valve, as the Pirelli transmitting sensors are in direct contact with the actual tires rather than the wheel rims.
The data supplied from the sensors is processed by software created by Pirelli that is integrated into the car’s electronics. Some information can be seen on the dashboard and the central display; other information is used by the car’s electronics to calibrate the driver alert systems based on the exact characteristics of the tires and their status.
Safety first on the road
For example, a car equipped with Pirelli’s Cyber Tire system can alert a driver that they need to check tire pressures in order to continue driving safely.
Alternatively, when it’s time to change the type of tires—which often carry a different speed rating from summer to winter—the car alerts the driver when the maximum speed for that tire has been reached. The specific functionality of Cyber tires is chosen and defined by the manufacturers adopting them for each model.
A virtual race engineer on board
In the case of the McLaren, some of these functions have been specifically selected for use on a race track. For example, Pirelli Cyber Tire allows the driver to adapt tire pressures to obtain better performance on track based on their individual driving style. As a result, the alerts that each driver receives are altered too.
Drivers can be notified about when the tires have reached optimal temperature, allowing them to access the correct window to extract the maximum possible performance out of the car-tire package. Drivers can also be told when to cool their tires again. It’s like having a proper race engineer in the passenger seat.
Tailor-made tires with sensors
Pirelli’s engineers have developed bespoke P Zero tires for the McLaren Artura in 235/35Z R19 size at the front and 295/35 R20 size at the back together with McLaren engineers.
The tires have an asymmetric tread pattern, which gives excellent braking performance to guarantee control of the car under all conditions, particularly when it’s wet. P Zero Corsa tires, developed specifically for use on the track as well as the road, are also available, featuring a compound derived from Pirelli’s motorsport experience.
For winter, the McLaren Artura benefits from unique P Zero winter tires specifically designed to match its characteristics, with a tailor-made compound and tread pattern design that guarantees performance similar to the P Zero summer tire. All three of these tires for the McLaren Artura can be distinguished by their MC-C markings on the sidewalls, indicating the unique development carried out by Pirelli especially for McLaren, using Cyber Tire technology.
Pirelli Cyber: one technology, many different applications
The Pirelli Cyber Tire system will represent the future of tires: capable of giving cars a sense of touch by allowing them to identify or predict potentially hazardous situations such as loss of grip and aquaplaning, which means that the cars electronics can promptly intervene.
Next will be tires connected to a network with other vehicles and surrounding infrastructure. In November of 2019, Pirelli was the first tire company in the world to share information relating to road surfaces over the 5G network, thanks to sensor-equipped intelligent tires.
Towards autonomous driving
These systems are constantly evolving, in the same way autonomous driving systems are also becoming more and more advanced. The jobs entrusted to the driver today—assessing the level of grip provided by the road surface and weather conditions—will be increasingly handed over to the tires, meaning that the car will automatically slow down when conditions become slippery, with driver aids activated to increase safety.
As connectivity between vehicles comes online, a car will be able to advise other driverless cars about an imminent potential hazard. All this adds up to a genuine sense of touch delivered by the only part of the car in contact with the road: its tires.