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Two new tyre concepts could be the future of motoring

Motors | Published:

Continental and Michelin have revealed shape-shifting and 3D-printed tyre concepts

Tyres that can adapt their size and shape or be repaired using 3D printing have been revealed.

Both Continental and Michelin jostled with big new car reveals at the Frankfurt Motor Show to share fascinating tyre technology that could revolutionise the industry.

The big news from Continental was its ContiAdapt adjustable wheel and tyre combination. It can control the amount of rubber that’s in contact with the road by varying tyre pressure and the width of the rim to adapt to road and weather conditions.

For example, a smaller contact patch and high pressure would improve economy when driving on smooth, grippy roads, while lower pressures and wider contact would improve grip in slippery conditions. It can also drop pressures very low to help cars that are stuck in snow or driving on ice.

The tyre manufacturer also revealed ContiSense, which uses sensors built into the rubber that can constantly monitor tread depth as well as temperature and feed information back to the driver – it can even sense if something has damaged the tyre, risking a blowout.

Michelin’s Vision concept tyre is similarly futuristic, thanks to the fact it doesn’t need air and is claimed to be puncture-proof. What’s more interesting, though, is that the tyre maker says the tread is fully customisable.

Customers can head to “drive-in 3D printing centres” where staff can create a totally new tread for the tyre. This would reduce the need to replace a whole tyre when the tread wears out, or give motorists the ability to adapt their tyre for winter driving or off-roading – ultimately drastically reducing waste.

However, Terry Gettys, executive vice-president of research and development at Michelin, noted that a production version of this tyre was some way off. He said: “You might think it’s a dream and you’re right; it’s a long-term dream, but a realistic dream.

“It will take 10 to 20 years for us to develop the whole tyre, which will be totally recyclable, and biodegradable.”

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