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Under pressure

Tyre pressure monitoring already exists in the US as a safety feature on new vehicles, and the systems used are soon to be phased in Europe.

Insufficient tyre pressure is a common cause of rollover accidents and could lead to fatalities fatalities.

Monitoring systems measure inflation either indirectly, taken from data from the vehicle's wheel-speed sensors, or directly, relying on pressure readings from a sensor on the inner surface of the wheel rim. The system relays an alert to flash a warning light or digital readout on the dashboard when air pressure is low. The systems are set to alert the driver when a tyre's pressure falls 25 percent or more below the recommended inflation level.

But are the pressure monitors all they’re cracked up to be? False warnings are a common complaint among drivers of new models, and most sensors are tailored to specific models – there are no universal models as yet.

When wheels are changed, sensors need either to be transferred to the new wheels, or new sensors must be purchased. Continental's solution, which is two or three years down the track, will involve sensors on the inner surface of the tyre instead of on the wheel.

In this design, which the company calls the ITS, intelligent tire monitoring system. the sensor would communicate with the car's central computer and could even govern the vehicle's top speed until the tyres reach a suitable temperature and pressure level. ‘There's been a lot of debate about whether people really care about this stuff," said Ward Randall, sales manager of body and security products for Continental. ‘[But] because of the ITS, because of enhanced data, we will be able to provide the vehicle with more information. If we're talking about improving handling and drivability, this is something the driver can perceive.’

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