Tire wear is the leading cause of traffic accidents globally, certainly so during inclement weather. Hydroplaning or hitting a patch of black ice can be deadly, and when tires wear out, they can pose a considerable safety risk to the driver and those around them. Measuring tire wear is usually done using a coin positioned in between the threads, or heading to a mechanic for a full-on laser scan. Current technology provides a wealth of information on most newer vehicle’s dashboards, with some offering data on tire pressure, but nothing on tire wear.
To address the problem, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a radar-based system that can monitor tire wear in real-time, alerting drivers when they need to purchase new ones. The system, dubbed Osprey, is the first on-vehicle mmWave radar sensing device that uses radio waves to measure reflections from the grooves of the tire, even in the presence of debris. Millimeter-wave radar is incredibly accurate by itself, but employ it on a moving tire, and it can provide readings a the submillimeter level due to the tire’s spinning motion.
The Osprey technology also takes advantage of metallic strips embedded in the tire grooves, allowing it to receive essential reflections, even when snow, rain, or road debris comes in contact with the tire. Tests showed that the Osprey system is capable of measuring tire tread down to 0.68-millimeters, and has an accuracy of detecting foreign objects, such as nails, 92% of the time. The researchers are currently looking at ways to use rubber, and other materials tires are made from, to detect and filter out the debris to make the system more accurate.