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Goodyear has announced that it is developing a self-inflating tire. In a press release, the Akron-based tire giant trumpeted what it is calling its Air Maintenance Technology, which incorporates pressure gauges and a miniaturized pump inside of each tire to ensure proper inflation at all times. “While the technology is complex, the idea behind the AMT system is relatively simple,” said Goodyear vice president Jean-Claude Kihn. Power for the system will be generated as the tires roll down the road.
Goodyear isn’t the first company to work on the technology. In 2008, a Czech company called Coda Development showed off what it straightforwardly calls its Self Inflating Tire system at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, winning the conference’s Tech Award. Media reports claimed that the design was only marginally more expensive to produce and install than regular tires.
Though Goodyear hasn’t mentioned cost or a timeline for when it might bring its AMT system to market, Kihn did predict that the technology will one day be widespread on international roads. “This will become the kind of technological breakthrough that people will wonder how they ever lived without,” he said.
While tire inflation may not be as sexy a subject as electric sports cars or hybrid luxury sedans, it’s an issue that hasn’t escaped the notice of the federal government. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama drew ridicule from Republicans when he suggested that expanded domestic oil drilling wouldn’t make any more of a dent in reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil than Americans “inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups.”
Despite the guffaws, several media fact-checks into the claim found it likely to be true. The U.S. Department of Energy says that proper tire inflation would save drivers as much as 3.3 percent in fuel consumption. The DOE recently awarded Goodyear and PPG $1.5 million to study self-inflating tire technology, which is likely to initially be targeted towards trucks and other commercial vehicles.
Goodyear’s AMT system is being developed with a grant from the government of Luxembourg, where a consumer version of the technology is in the works. The European Union plans to fund its own research as well, after a recent study found that 71 percent of European drivers were driving on under-inflated tires. In addition to reduced fuel economy, low pressure results in diminished handling and shorter tire lifespan.