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Doing the smart thing.

When was the last time you had a flat tire? I'll bet for most of you it has been quite a while. I know I had a hard time recollecting my last flat as I was removing the cover of the compartment that housed my mini spare tire. Since I just encountered a puncture and this was the first time I had removed the cover, I had two concerns - that there was a tire under there and that it had air.

Prior to this, the only spare tire I was concerned about was north of my hips. I check my tires on a regular basis, but I must admit that the condition of my spare, or the possibility that I didn't even have one, was never a consideration. The advances in tire technology over the last quarter of the 20th century have eliminated many concerns drivers had about their tires. The mini spare was removed from many vehicles when first introduced. The regular spare was favored by those apprehensive about the efficacy of this solution to making cars lighter. The car companies wanted the weight reduction as they were downsizing their fleets to meet mandated miles per gallon requirements.

The mini spare gained acceptance because trunks got smaller, and with no compartment designed in, the extra tire was getting in the way of the golf clubs. Plus, with the popularity of car leasing, many people never even buy a set of replacement tires, let alone deal with a flat tire.

Now there's a push to eliminate the spare entirely, and it's coming from tire makers, not the car manufacturers. All of the major tire manufacturers have been developing tires that can withstand a puncture or a sudden loss of air. Some have been marketed. To date, there is no groundswell to eliminate the mini spare.

That's why it's interesting that Goodyear and Michelin announced that they would cooperate in developing run flat tire technology. Especially with the disinterest shown by both the consumers and the car companies, and the competitive nature of Goodyear and Michelin. Both companies have invested significant R&D in competing systems. Many times the news would be that one or both were exiting this non-profit-generating venture. It's obvious that both companies see this as an evolutionary step in the tire and believe they can accelerate the process together.

You don't have to be a seer to ascertain that this is where tires are headed. It won't be long before you'll be able to analyze almost any function of the auto from your instrument panel. This will include tire air pressure, tread depth and temperature. The computer running your suspension system will regulate tire pressure to optimize handling for certain road conditions. The smart tire will be a reality whether pushed by the consumer or the OEM.

It's a credit to the managements of Michelin and Goodyear to recognize it will be a lot easier and a lot less costly to develop this technology jointly. Cooperation like this hasn't happened in the tire industry since the synthetic robber project during WWII.
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Title Annotation:run flat tire technology
Comment:Doing the smart thing.(run flat tire technology)
Author:Smith, Don R.
Publication:Rubber World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Previous Article:Literature.
Next Article:Longwood Elastomers buys Eagle-Picher Rubber Molding.

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