What is it?
Developed by WheelRight, the system instantly checks the pressures of a full set of tyres just by driving over pads in the ground. Already in use at bus depots, a 13-week trial launched at Keele Services on the M6 in March, working with the Highways Agency and Welcome Break to provide free tyre pressure checks for cars and HGVs.
Tyre pressures are often neglected, WheelRight says, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems, which become mandatory on all new cars later this year, aren’t necessarily the solution. Some use the ABS system to monitor wheel size differences across an axle, so can’t detect if tyres are deflating together, and others give live pressure readings but bury them within menus and only alert drivers once they get really low.
As a result, between 10 and 20% of the UK’s tyres are estimated to be underinflated, causing a multitude of problems. A 10% decrease in pressure increases fuel consumption by up to 5%, reduces tyre life by up to 15% and causes a 10% loss of braking efficiency. In the UK, 25 deaths and 1,500 serious accidents each year are attributed to tyre issues.
How it works:
Aiming to give drivers a nudge to check their pressures more often, the system is designed to be instant, accurate and automated. There are two pads on the ground with sensors that record pressure points as the car drives over, and from this the system can calculate in seconds how much each corner is inflated. The driver can see the results on a screen, or print a slip afterwards.
Because the cars are identified by automatic number plate recognition and the system is networked, drivers can have results sent to their mobile phone and fleet operators can have data sent to them via
e-mail, regardless of where the check takes place. However, the trial at Keele is about providing data to drivers, and registration numbers won’t be shared.
Once the trial at Keele is complete, WheelRight is hoping to roll the technology out to other service areas and forecourts around the UK. However, there are applications for companies with large car fleets.
For installation costs and a monthly lease, which covers maintenance, repairs and upgrades, the system can be installed in company car parks enabling regular tyre checks as vehicles enter and exit, notifying fleet managers or drivers of any issues. One UK company with the system installed said less than 70% of its car drivers had correctly inflated tyres beforehand, compared to 97% now.
New functions are under development, too. The automatic number plate recognition could enable drivers to register online and select which wheels are fitted to their car, allowing the system to show how under-inflated they are without needing to check the handbook. WheelRight is also about to start trials of a camera-based system which would enable it to check the condition of the tread.