Dashboards are useful. They'll let you know about certain things that you should deal with, like when you are low on gas, or when the oil needs to change. One thing where it falls short, tire wear and tear, and more significantly, tire punctures, we have to rely on analog feedback for these.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are doing a good job of adding that functionality in our cars.
When tires wear out, they lose traction, especially in chilly weather. This poses a major safety to both pedestrians and drivers. After a visit to Bridgestone Americas Technical Center in Akron, Ohio, researchers began wondering how they could measure and monitor tire wear. It's right, newer cars have pressure sensors built in the tires but what about wear and tear? Coming up with a method to make such a measurement would surely save lives and money.
Ph.D. electrical and computer engineering student Akarsh Prabhakara explains: "Wear measurement today is either done manually with a coin, or using full resolution laser scans," and added, "Neither of these techniques provide a convenient solution to mount on a car and to deal with different kinds of debris that may stick in the tire over time. Designing a wear sensor is challenging.”
After some experimentation with Bridgestone, the team decided on utilizing radar technology. A radar device is mounted over a tire, on the tire well.
Prabhakara said, "Millimeter-wave radars are common in vehicles today,” and elaborated "It’s used for collision avoidance, cruise control, and other such features. Our system repurposes these radars for tire wear sensing."
The technique utilized on this device is Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar. This technique benefits from the tire's rotation to boost the resolution of the radars, enabling them to measure millimetric changes. Also, we embedded in metallic additions that serve as markers. These help the radar get the reflection in low visibility environments, such as dusty or snowy roads.
On top of all these, the system also detects foreign objects (such as nails) stuck in the tires.