The Internet of Tires, Why Gatik and Goodyear's Collaboration is Good for Autonomous Delivery

Goodyear Ventures also participated in Gatik's recent $85 million Series B.

Goodyear and autonomous middle mile delivery startup Gatik announced today that the tire giant participated in Gatik’s $85 million Series B fundraise last month, and that Gatik’s medium-sized trucks will start using Goodyear’s IoT-enabled SightLine tires.

The two companies didn’t disclose how much Goodyear invested in Gatik, but that’s okay because the bigger story here is the tires. Or rather, the internet of tires and what that technology could do for autonomous driving.

SightLine tires are equipped with sensors that can keep track of and communicate with other systems about things like tire pressure, tread depth, remaining mileage, tire load estimation and road conditions.

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Equipped with this data, Gatik will get real-time insight into the condition of its fleet’s tires. Knowing tire wear can improve safety (fewer blowouts or flats), while maintaining proper air pressure can improve gas mileage to lower fuel costs.

But those are potential benefits for any trucking company. What makes this collaboration more interesting is how the data from SightLine tires will be integrated into Gatik’s self-driving technology. Getting real-time data from the tires means that the autonomous driving system can change how it drives to perform better. In a video chat last week, Arjun Narang, CTO and Co-Founder of Gatik explained that load and pressure data from the tires has already resulted in improvements to Gatik’s control over stopping distances.

With its limited, set route, middle mile deliveries were already a faster path to market for autonomous vehicle technology. Moving back and forth between the same set points reduces the amount of variability a self-driving system encounters. This in turn helps put local regulators, who might be hesitant about self-driving vehicles on public roads, more at ease. Adding tires like SightLine will hopefully make self-driving vehicles like Gatik’s and others more safe, and thereby approved for use in even more locations around the US.

But in addition to improved safety, lower costs and better maintenance for delivery companies, local governments could benefit from the internet of tires as well. Instead of tires only reporting data back to the truck and fleet operators, that data could also be transmitted to other interested parties. Perhaps in exchange for allowing more autonomous delivery vehicles (trucks, cars, robots, etc.) on roads and sidewalks, local governments could ask for data such as road and traffic conditions. This real time data could help alert citizens to icy conditions or cities to potholes and sidewalk damage.

The advantage of software-driven vehicles is their ability to take in and take action from a lot of different data sources at once. For autonomous driving, adding data from tires is definitely not an idea that’s just full of air.

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