Sumitomo’s intelligent new sensor detects loose wheel nuts to reduce the risk of run away wheel accidents

Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI), the maker of Falken Tyres, continues to develop its SENSING CORE intelligent tyre technology with a new wheel detachment function set to reach production vehicles for the first time this year. SENSING CORE is a flexible, sensor-less analysis and monitoring system with many different applications, including tyre pressure and wear, uneven loads and hazardous road conditions.

In recent years, accidents and injuries caused by detached wheels have become headline news in markets such as Japan, especially during the winter season, when car and truck drivers switch over to winter tyres and may not tighten the wheel nuts sufficiently. Whilst many commercial vehicle operators use mechanical clips on the nuts as a visual check, they are not 100 percent reliable and rely on the diligence of the driver to check each of them before each journey.

The Government of Japan has expressed its desire to end loose wheel accidents and SRI believes that SENSING CORE’s wheel detachment function is one step towards reaching this goal. In 2024, the function will be fitted to a car as standard equipment for the first time by an OEM customer. Discussions are ongoing with additional vehicle manufacturers.

Like previously developed ‘pillars’ of SENSING CORE, the wheel detachment function works independently of tyre make, model or size. It analyses wheel-speed signals and other information from the vehicle’s controller area network (CAN) to detect whether any wheel nuts are loose – by as little as one millimetre.

SENSING CORE grew out of SRI’s original deflation warning system (DWS), an indirect tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Fifteen OEMs from Europe, Japan, China and India fit its DWS to their cars. Now SENSING CORE is the centrepiece of the peripheral services SRI is developing to meet the future challenges of CASE vehicles and mobility as a service, under the SMART TYRE CONCEPT umbrella.

“We envisage that SENSING CORE will make a significant contribution to the evolution and further development of mobility in the coming autonomous driving society,” said Dr. Bernd Löwenhaupt, Managing Director Sumitomo Rubber Europe GmbH. “We will not only utilize the data obtained by SENSING CORE, including road condition data, for vehicle control, but also pursue technological development with our eyes on the future integration of the data with societal information via cloud services.”

SRI’s fleet trials of cloud-based TPMS with a rental company in Japan have already helped to demonstrate the efficiency, cost and safety value of tyre-based information. Another future application of SENSING CORE is in cloud-based tyre-wear monitoring. In this scenario, software in the cloud receives usage information from the vehicle and accurately predicts the resultant tyre wear. When a tyre is ready for replacement, an alert is sent to the driver or fleet manager.

SENSING CORE’s benefits will be experienced by even more drivers in the coming years. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2024, SRI announced its investment in Viaduct, an AI-powered, connected-vehicle analytics company with whom it has been working on a proof-of-concept since 2023. SENSING CORE will integrate with Viaduct’s product to predict tyre health across a vehicle fleet.

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