Pirelli is flexing its muscles in the realm of high-performance tyres with the introduction of not one but two new innovations in road-car rubber.
Its new coloured side-wall tyres will roll out on Australian blacktop in July this year adding conspicuous Formula One flair to high-performance cars, but the Italian manufacturer will upgrade the new line with 'Connesso' integrated sensor technology next year.
Translated as ‘connected’ in English, the new Connesso range uses an embedded sensor like a virtual watchdog that communicates with a paired smartphone, allowing the driver to monitor critical tyre information such as pressure, temperature and even tread wear.
Speaking to Wheels at the Melbourne Grand Prix, Pirelli global Chief Commercial Officer Roberto Righi said that offering revolutionary technology and advancements asserts the company’s authority in the world of high-performance tyres.
“It’s further proof of the fact that we want to be technologically advanced and that we do not rest on our laurels,” he said. “Looking for niches that generate value for both us and our customers is what we do.”
The special new tyres were officially launched at the Geneva motor show where Pirelli conducted a survey which revealed that 63 percent of all prestige cars on display at the Swiss show were shod in Pirelli rubber – another indication of the brand’s dominance, said Righi.
“Our advantage is that we talk to all the premium and prestige manufacturers with a position of credibility that is the result of everything we have done in the last ten or 15 years.”
For the colour-branded side-walls, Pirelli’s engineers borrowed technology from the boots fitted to F1 cars and developed new materials that provide a durable finish that will last the life of the tyre.
The company is offering colour versions of is P Zero flagship product and Sottozero winter tyres in rim sizes 19-inch and above, and on an order only basis, with the first examples arriving in July this year.
Initially, customers will be offered the iconic Pirelli and P Zero brands and side-wall stripe in a choice of white, grey, red and yellow, but the range will be expanded at the end of 2017 to offer any colour a customer wants.
At the point of purchase, a colour sample can be submitted and the set of tyres will arrive with side-walls to match paint work or a contrasting colour, for example.
Given Australia’s desire for high-performance cars and luxury goods, Righi said he expects the new products to be warmly received and that customers were already starting to place orders.
“I’m sure that it will be a success because this is a market that understands this kind of thing. [Australians] appreciate the possibility of spending money not to show off but to have something that is a bit different. That’s what we are going to be able to provide.”
When the Connesso technology arrives, customers will be able to access a complete tyre monitoring system and connection to the Pirelli Cloud.
Each sensor sends signals to a central control unit, which relays the information to Pirelli’s cloud data server, before being processed and beamed back to the user’s device via the Connesso application.
Far more than a glorified pressure gauge, the Connesso system recognises each individual tyre code and can trace its performance from manufacturing all the way through to recycling.
From launch, the system will provide owners with tyre pressure and temperature information, plus static vertical load and tyre wear, while keeping a tally on the number of kilometres covered by each tyre. For trackday junkies, it's perfect.
Ultimately, Pirelli says the complete system will be able to predict the number of kilometres left in each tyre by monitoring driving style, typical road conditions and existing tread wear rate.
The application can warn drivers if a sudden pressure loss is experienced or if the minimum tread depth has been reached and by integrating with other applications, can even advise where the nearest Pirelli dealer or tyre shop is located if assistance is required.
“The idea is to add to the relatively standard features that the sensors deliver. At least an indication of tyre wear, and we want to link it through an app to other information that can connect the driver with things that happen in the Pirelli world,” said Righi.
Understandably, car makers are showing an interest in the new technology and Righi said that there will be an announcement regarding the cooperation with a car brand next year.
“Now we are in a position where it is possible to talk to car makers with a higher level of solidity and technical solutions.
“There’s clearly a lot of interest. Talking about connected vehicles these days is the name of the game.
“There are a lot of ongoing discussions on the subject but original equipment requires long testing activities. Something will happen in 2018 but for the time being it’s difficult to say with who.”
The technology has been developed alongside Pirelli’s Cyber Tyre system which uses a different type of sensor in the tyre to communicate with a vehicle’s various key electronic systems, and can alter stability and suspension systems according to road conditions and driving environment.