I AM a Lead Light Truck and SUV Tire Development Engineer for Cooper Tires. I have worked there for 30 years, holding various technical positions in the product development area throughout my career. Primarily, my focus has been radial light truck products such as the previously available Cooper Discoverer A/T as well as the Discoverer S/T, Discoverer S/T Maxx, Discoverer STT PRO, the ‘original’ Discoverer A/T3 and the recently released Discoverer AT3 4S, Discoverer AT3 LT, and Discoverer AT3 XLT lines
Some of my best work-related memories have been during our trips to the Australian Outback, the AnzaBorrego Desert State Park or Big Bear Lake in California, Yellowstone National Park, Moab Utah, or the numerous other locations we have used for product validation testing of our light truck tyres. These firsthand experiences give me the understanding of the diverse terrains and applications our tyres may encounter, and have allowed me to meet consumers who are using our products, understand their performance needs, and hear their direct, positive feedback regarding Cooper tyres.
Use of computer modelling to evaluate tyre performance characteristics through Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to speed product changes will continue to grow. Use of unique, lighter-weight, stronger materials to reduce tyre weight to improve tyre performance and vehicle economy will be needed. Obtaining feedback on the traction levels of a vehicle’s tyres under varying surface conditions in real-time to maximise safety will become increasingly important with the growth of autonomous vehicles. And lastly, continued emphasis on eco-friendly production and methods for recycling worn tyres will be some of the challenges moving forward for the tyre industry.
Tyres are a critical component to the performance of any vehicle and its overall safety. It’s the only link between the vehicle and whatever surface you are driving on, and directly impacts a vehicle’s ability to accelerate, decelerate, turn, and carry loads. Tyres are one of the most highly engineered components of a vehicle, and yet, one of the least understood or appreciated. A tyre may be comprised of steel, nylon, polyester, aramid, or other reinforcing materials, bonded together by numerous different types of rubber compounds which are formulated to address the local stress, strain, heat build-up, and other factors specific to their location in the tyre.
Take a look at the tyres on your own vehicle, and the level of deformation that occurs in the tread and sidewall area where the tread contacts the road surface. For the average-sized tyre, this level of deformation will occur at every location around the circumference of the tyre about 350 times every kilometre it is driven, or about 28 million times throughout the tyre’s average life. Consider now that level of deformation you are observing is static, and does not take into account dynamic tyre deformation due to tyre speed or impacts with potholes, rocks, road surface irregularities, cornering, etc., under highly varying ambient temperatures, while being exposed to UV/ozone/gravel/ salt/snow/rain/sand/kerbing, and other types of degradation throughout the tyre’s lifespan.
Ensuring proper inflation pressure is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your tyres and minimise these stresses and strains.