One of the future megatrends of autonomous driving will see the tyre need to better communicate with the vehicle. This is exactly what Apollo Tyres has its eyes set on as the company inaugurated its new R&D testing facility in Chennai,
This happens to be the first such facility for the company in Asia, and the second after Europe globally.
The company currently has over 400 full-time R&D engineers and researchers working on new products and solutions. Amongst the interesting developments taking place at the R&D centre is a tyre integrated with a sensor that can provide real-time tyre pressure status not only to the vehicle’s display but also on the cloud. On the other hand, it is also working on tyres integrated with RFID which can be tracked easily to ensure reliable identification and in future build data-driven solutions and services.
The self-driving tech will rely on multiple data inputs – sensors, LiDAR, radar, V2V or V2X communication – which means it will be able to navigate better, avoid high-risk behaviour and have even better braking capabilities. This means, the tyres will see less abuse, but at the same time, it means the tyre will need to proactively communicate with the vehicle to ensure maximum uptime.
Daniele Lorenzetti, CTO, Apollo Tyres highlighted that the tyre industry is being influenced by various factors globally, for instance, impact of Euro 7 which is under discussion, electric vehicles, BEEE rating and protocol for toxic materials among others.
On the other hand, each segment (two-, four-wheeler, commercial vehicle, off-road and highway, agriculture) has its own specific trends be it – electric, autonomous, fuel efficiency, bigger engines or recreational usage. Apollo Tyres’ is banking on the role of new technologies like simulation, AI, 3D prototyping to new test methods.
But for a country like India, does the company have any specific target areas to reduce the retail prices? Lorenzetti says otherwise, he says Apollo Tyres is focussing on delivering quality products, of which cost is a function. The R&D that happens on tyres goes beyond just reducing costs, and goes upto molecular-level design for new compounds, chemicals, etc. While he did not clarify the number of programs (new products) being developed concurrently, he says the timeline does vary between 6 months to 2 years for any new product. The company is currently investing around 1.5 to 2% of its revenue in R&D, which is a significant portion.
For the US market it has already developed products for the passenger vehicle segment and is looking to introduce new products in the commercial vehicle range.
In terms of sustainability the company is targetting to have at least 40 percent sustainable materials in tyres by 2030, from the average 25-30 percent at present.
When asked about improvements tyres from each generation, Lorenzetti says, that a minimum of 5-10 percent improvement is found after each generation, which can range from performance, sustainability, life, wear-and-tear to price and usage.