Researchers from Virginia Tech, Penn State University and 12 industry partners in the US are working on a research project to integrate sensors into car tyres for safer driving.

Since tyres are the vehicle’s point of contact with the road, they are the best medium to provide detailed information such as the speed of the vehicle and the condition of the road.

The tyres will use ceramic sensors to gather information on the condition of the road and tyre, as well as wirelessly transmit the data to the vehicle’s control system.

"The sensors give us a much broader way of looking at the interactions between the tyre and the road."

The research team also plans to develop new manufacturing techniques to integrate sensors directly into tyres.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the $1.2m project is headed by Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering associate professor for mechanical engineering and the Centre for Tyre Research (CenTyre) director Saied Taheri.

The new research will use direct deposition techniques to incorporate several piezoelectric sensors into each tyre. This will enable the researchers to get systematic data as more data points will be available with every revolution of the tyre.

Piezoelectric sensors convert physical inputs to electrical signals, which can carry information related to the friction between the tyre and the road, in addition to the vehicle’s acceleration, and the tyre’s air pressure and structural integrity.

When the data gets transferred to the car’s computer, its existing control systems will automatically be able to maximise safety.

The wireless systems of transmitting data will also be able to share data with other vehicles (V2V) and with the broader communications infrastructure (V2I), facilitating other users to access the information.

Taheri said: "The sensors give us a much broader way of looking at the interactions between the tyre and the road.

"There are many control systems in a car, and this tyre data can be integrated into all of them to adjust them accordingly; if you’re on rough terrain, if you’re on snow, or if you’re hydroplaning."

While the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center is developing the wireless technology, the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems is focusing on an approach to use the tire’s own motion to power the sensors and transmission systems.