Updates on Innovation - The Intelligent Tire Technology Gathering
Automotive IQ spoke with Dr. Thomas Roscher,Team Coordinator, TPMS Development, Audi AG, Germany. Dr. Roscher discussed the importance of the annual Intelligent Tires Conference for the industry as well as his motivations for innovation.
"On a completely personal level, the challenge for me as an engineer starts when somebody says, ‘That does not work!’"
Why is the ITT important to you personally?
For me, the ITT is one big opportunity in the year to talk to experts in the field of tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and tyre development – both on a technical and a personal level. I meet people from all these different areas - OEM’s, tyre manufacturers and their suppliers, TPMS industry, service providers, academics, technical colleges and so. To be honest, it’s really important for me that this interaction is so concentrated into these two days. I wouldn’t like to miss it. This interaction is just as important as all the technical contributions which I’m there for as well of course.
Can you please elaborate on that?
There are many subjects which get us all excited, which we work on all year. It is also very important that we don’t just look at these subjects from our own point of view. We also need the balance of our colleagues, not just as OEM, but also our colleagues at the tire manufacturers, tire pressure monitoring suppliers, or those in the service industry. They are often looking at the same topics and issues as us but from a different angle. There are, of course, other forums where we can do this, such as working groups. Nevertheless, we only get this degree of concentration concerning intelligent tire technology once a year, at the ITT.
How is the ITT positioned in terms of importance to the industry?
Over the course of the last ten years, the subject of TPMS and how it is technologically implemented has been critically important. That’s also why it’s called Intelligent Tyre Technology. But what will make tyres more intelligent in the future also besides tyre pressure monitoring?
Tyre pressure monitoring is one important building block of this conference. Tyre pressure monitoring systems are important in terms of legislation. It’s very important to keep up to date with regard to legislation, to discuss the current status of legislation with the community, and then to reach a sensible result. And it really makes sense to find a smart solution as it does, indeed, affect us all. So the collaboration at the ITT has always been very important, not just with regard to the subject of tyre pressure monitoring.
The topic of tyre pressure monitoring is just one aspect, but there are also the subjects of tyres and their performance. It’s a matter of the tyre criteria which have come through in the last few years, which are no problem individually – for example rolling resistance. If you just want to optimise a tyre’s rolling resistance, you can certainly achieve that. The problem is that you have many other features you have to get right as well. That does lead to conflicting objectives. It is really important to discuss these topics. As I have said, not just for us as an OEM, but also with everyone involved in these subjects. And that means the legislators, other OEM’s, the tyre manufacturers, and of course their suppliers. There are also the testing bodies, particularly regarding the subject of rolling resistance. I’m sure I’ve forgotten somebody. It is extremely important that they all come together there and guide these developments in a sensible direction via their input – that’s what it’s all about. The conference has worked superbly well over the last ten years and it really has achieved a fantastic amount. And I am sure most of the attendees of the past will agree, it was also very necessary.
A lot has happened in the area of TPMS, and a lot has happened in the world of tyres. To keep up to date with developments, and to know what other people think about these, has been really important, and will probably continue to be important.
What about 2014? What is particularly important?
We are not yet finished with the subject of regulation in TPMS, or the subject of tyres. We also have new areas to add to the list, for example China. We are right at the point now where a decision will be made about what will become law at some stage in China. Hopefully, that will be standardised with what already exists in other regions, but to achieve standardisation, precisely this kind of exchange of experiences at these conferences is important.
What motivates you personally to be innovative in the tyre industry?
As the point of contact between vehicle and the road, it is a fact, the the tyre is one of the most important parts on a car. The tyre affects, among other properties, the vehicle’s safety, comfort and CO2. So what isreally important for me, of course, is that we offer the best possible solution for these criteria to our customers – and ultimately that’s an Audi driver. That’s the objective. This is the only way we can be sure we will win over new customers as an OEM in the future – not just in Germany, not just in Europe, but also in other markets that will become more and more important for us in the future such as China. That’s topic number one: customer demands. As developers and as a company, topic number two is to design, review and adjust our processes and the developments in order to achieve the goals effectively. We can only do this if we work with everyone involved.
On a completely personal level, the challenge for me as an engineer starts when somebody says, "That does not work!" I get a little jumpy and then start to ask what exactly is not working and why? Naturally, we then correct it somehow. We just have to set it up cleverly and smartly, and then we get it right. There is always this challenge to achieve something where others have turned away because at a first glance it may seem impossible.
And there are always an incredible number of people who say, "That’s not possible; that will never work; that’s not technically possible; you’ll never get that through." That’s exactly when I as an engineer say, "We can do this." That’s really what drives me personally. Overall, things are getting more complicated and more complex, yes. But therefore we have to talk to many more partners; you have to network to achieve the goals you set yourself in this complex world. No alternative to that.
Within the subject of tyres, there are many sub-topics, one prominent example is the tyre’s rolling resistance. The question is how do we meet all the demands on a tyre with rolling resistance just one of them. We want good rolling resistance and therefore good fuel consumption / CO2 results. How do we achieve this while keeping the properties the same or ideally making them even better regarding the other criteria - tyre handling performance in the wet for example. Rolling resistance and wet handling are classic conflicting aims. You might have great rolling resistance, but if you have to brake in the wet, then your car might just take off, and we don’t want that at all. It’s a matter of resolving these conflicting aims intelligently which is really challenging.
Regarding tyre pressure monitoring, we have now reached the point where there are two mature systems which meet the demands of both the customer and the legislation: direct and indirect measuring systems. With direct and indirect systems, it will be interesting whether, and which additional functions will be developed or launched besides tire pressure monitoring and which add on functions will customers appreciate. The issue with regard to direct tyre pressure control systems is: standardisation - harmonisation of transmitter standards, so that ultimately we can reach a point where we have interchangeable sensors. Another step forward would be getting rid of the battery in the direct sensor at some stage. That is a huge disadvantage of the direct measuring systems right now. There are concepts for this. They’ve been around for some time now but do they work and when will they be fitted to vehicles on a series production level. Another subject of direct tyre pressure controls is the topic of tyre-integrated sensors. By that I mean not attached to the rim, but to the tyre. That’s the next step forward. We are not there yet but the tyre manufacturers and TPMS manufacturers are currently doing a lot of work on it. Those are the things which I find incredibly interesting for the next two, three or let’s say four to five years.
The ITT is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. Look forward to seeing you there and thank you for your time.
Congratulations on the ten years. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be an active part of it. I wish all the best for the next ten years and I am certain that it will be a great conference and a great event this year once more.