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Pirelli connects your tires to the IoT network so you can hear them talk

Last year, Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli introduced a high-tech, cloud-connected tire named Connesso. It called the tire a new type of technology, one which establishes a dialog between the driver, the tires, and the car. Beta testers put thousands of miles on the first two Connesso applications in a wide variety of driving conditions. Called Cyber Car, the next evolution of the technology is ready for prime time. It’s coming to your dashboard sooner than you might think.

The list of objects connected to the internet of things (IoT) network seemingly never ends. We have connected fridges, connected microwaves, connected gas pumps, and now connected tires. Seriously? What’s the point? Jennifer Tonin, Pirelli Digital’s commercial director, told Digital Trends embedding sensors in tires makes driving safer and more convenient. It can also, in some circumstances, help alleviate the range anxiety sometimes associated with electric cars by monitoring vertical load, a term which means the weight placed on an individual tire.

The Cyber Car consists of a tiny, ultra-light sensor integrated into each tire liner. Think of it as a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) with a degree from an Ivy League school. These sensors monitor a long list of data points and send the information they gather to the cloud, which in turn beams it back to a control unit mounted inside the windshield. It’s like a transponder for toll booths but smaller and more discreet. Cyber Car allows the driver to check the tire pressure, the tread wear, and the tire temperature, among other parameters, even on-the-go.

No, your tires aren’t at risk of contracting a fever. Most motorists never think about their tires’ temperature, let alone worry about it, but it’s important in high-performance cars, especially the ones that regularly see action on a track. The tire pressure tool is appreciably more useful in real-world applications, however. Stop us if this sounds familiar: the average driver neglects to check tire pressures until one simply looks low. By that point, odds are it’s really low. To facilitate maintenance, Pirelli’s Cyber Car technology provides the correct tire pressure and displays a digital gauge.

Cyber Car sends visual and audible alerts when it detects something is wrong. When a tire gets too worn, for example, or if its pressure falls below a certain threshold. The driver can accept the notification and, hopefully, make a mental note of it. Motorists can also use the system to make an appointment with a Pirelli-authorized retailer to fix the problem.

Right now, the information gathered by Pirelli’s smart tires gets displayed on a purpose-designed smartphone application named Connesso. We got a brief demonstration of it on the side-lines of this year’s Geneva Auto Show and found it’s intuitive to use. We like its simple layout; it’s not an overload of complicated jargon that doesn’t make sense unless you’re a mechanic or a tire geek. The app uses numbers, colors, and an easy-to-read gauge to display basic information. It responds quickly to input.

Tonin told Digital Trends Pirelli is working with a major auto-maker to bring its Cyber Car technology to production by the end of the year, but she wouldn’t tell us which one. We’ll have to wait to learn more.

Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

When it arrives, the app will be loaded directly into the car’s touch screen. If we had to guess, we’d speculate the model that will usher in the technology will be a high-end one with a correspondingly high price tag. Something along the lines of a Lamborghini Aventador S, for example. That’s where tech normally takes root in the automotive industry: up high. Recent innovations like adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, and the rear-view camera started that way, too. They all seeped down into nearly every segment of the market; the federal government even made the rear-view camera mandatory.

There will only be one type of car that comes straight from the factory with Pirelli’s connected tire in 2018. Our crystal ball says check back in 2028 and you’ll be surprised at how many models come with it – or something similar.

Called Cyber Car, Pirelli’s smart tire tells you when it needs air or when it’s time for a replacement. The technology is app-based right now, but it’s coming straight to your dashboard sooner than you think.