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3 Ways Self-Driving Vehicles Will Change the Future of Tire Retailing


March 19, 2018


Autonomous vehicles are expected to change tire buying behavior along with consumer driving habits. In this Modern Tire Dealer exclusive, Marc Belanski, president of shop management software developer ASA Automotive Systems Inc., identifies three trends that will affect the business of selling tires.

The future of the car industry is the autonomous car. According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., 15% of all new cars sold by 2030 will be fully autonomous. By 2050, almost all vehicles will be autonomous.

This suggests that the design and purpose of vehicle tires will be much different than today and that tire retailers will need to refocus on their tire marketing strategy. One positive is that the autonomous revolution will be good for business. These new vehicles will make people drive more — total global miles traveled will rise to 20 trillion miles by 2030 from 10 trillion miles today. A Morgan Stanley financial analyst says that the new technology will also directly lead to an increase in tire sales.

Driving the change is the advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) inside these vehicles that will play a significant role in shifting control from human drivers. ADAS will add value to the driving experience — less stress for drivers and more mobility to those who previously found driving prohibitive — while enhancing the role of the tire.

Here are three new ways that autonomous vehicle tires will change how tires are sold.

1. Value in the sensors

New tires will talk with one other, with the vehicle infrastructure, and with the vehicle’s surroundings. This means that tire repair shops and retailers will have the opportunity to communicate directly to the vehicle and potentially alert drivers if a repair is needed.

The value of new tires will be the strength of the sensors embedded within them. For example, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. just launched the “Intelligrip-Urban” concept tire that gathers and directly inputs weather and road condition data into the vehicle’s system. The technology makes it the first “smart tire” that will allow drives to identify problems before they happen and for the vehicle to optimize speed, braking, and stability according to the uploaded data.

Similarly, Pirelli has introduced the Pirelli Connesso, which gives the driver the ability to check the tire’s health via a smartphone app. The Connesso has a sensor that can “talk” with the closest tire retailer and can even book an appointment to fix potential problems. Continental’s ContiConnect concept tire has the same ability; repair shop technicians can “see” the tire pressure and temperature data via a web portal without having to touch any rubber.

2. Value in the design

Tires for autonomous vehicles will look different than tires today. They will be taller, skinner, and have no speed ratings because the autonomous vehicles will never exceed specified speeds. Handling performance will be a thing of the past because these vehicles have no steering wheel, and therefore handling is automatic.

Rather than competing for speed ratings or handling, the value of the tires is design. For example, Goodyear’s Eagle-360 concept tire is a sphere, opposed to the traditional round and black model. The company says the new shape offers better maneuverability and connects to the body via magnetic levitation, which is better for comfort and distilling noise.

3. Value in greater safety

A third way for tire retailers to understand the new value of autonomous vehicles is increased safety. The new tire technology will play a critical role in protecting the vehicle and its passengers, not just on the road, but before the wheels even start rolling. Problems such as low inflation pressure or structural problems will be self-monitored, and some will be self-corrected. The monitoring will be shared by local repair shops so they can alert the driver when service is necessary. The control system will know when road conditions change through the tires and will adjust accordingly.

In other words, the future tire technology will serve multiple functions that are all geared towards safety and preventative maintenance. The “smart tire” will be valued as a partner to the driver, rather than just another component of the vehicle. Tire retailers will need to shape messages that show how these new tires function and also their new purpose. That underlying message is one that will encourage buyers that the new direction is one they can support. -by Marc Belanski, president, ASA Automotive Systems.
 
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