Tire Industry Should Prepare For Megatrends

- Sep 16, 2019-

AKRON—While the tire industry is watching developing megatrends like electric and autonomous vehicles, it should focus on realistic usage and bringing in new skill sets, said Robert Asper, director of core system engineering and product development for Bridgestone Americas.

Asper described how the industry can approach these trends in his keynote "Will the Tire Society Rise to Meet the Challenges Created by Future Mobility?" delivered at the 38th Annual Tire Society Business Meeting and Conference on Tire Science and Technology. The event took place Sept. 10-11 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn in Akron.

Four of the upcoming megatrends in mobility include connective services, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility and electric vehicles, he said. But even though some might seem like they're right around the corner, the technology might take much longer to be fully integrated into consumer products. For example, electric vehicles are a growing part of the auto industry, but commercial EVs have been in production since about 1910. They were more reliable vehicles, but fuel for internal combustion engines was cheaper and more easily accessible. As technology has changed, that balance is starting to shift.

"Change happens fast, but it's not instant," said Asper.

Tire industry professionals also need to be able to "do the math" to apply real-world situations to new technologies. That means understanding what forces those megatrends will have on future tires, and how they can be modified to deal with them, Asper said. Tire manufacturing may see a split in the market going forward for both EVs and ICE vehicles, and the weight of a car may change with additional batteries or fewer batteries as they become more efficient.

"These things have to work in the real world," he said. "We've got to understand the math and physics on how these vehicles are going to work."

Engineers, researchers and academics need to branch out to connect with new disciplines as more technology is integrated into tires, he said. In one form or another, sensors will be a part of tires in the future, which means that manufacturers need to understand how to collect good data and use it effectively through machine learning. Tomorrow's mobility will require the same skill set as today's, along with entirely new challenges.

"It's not just the technology in the tires that's going to change, it's the way they're designed that's going to change," said Asper.

The tire industry should build bridges with universities to connect with and train the next generation as they pursue technical degrees, he said. Continuing to learn means watching the megatrends as they develop and building a team that can plan solutions to obstacles. It also means being a part of regulation conversations to ensure that they're based in science, and preparing for the unknown parts of those trends that are still unknown.

"What we are learning today between now and 2032 is going to help us deal with the challenges that all these megatrends are starting," said Asper. "If we flip the switch and everything was electric and autonomous, there would still be problems to solve. There's still math to do. There's still understanding that we need to do. It just changes."