What Product Managers Need To Know About Tires

Product managers start to equip their tires with AI
Product managers start to equip their tires with AI
Image Credit: Yamanaka Tamaki

When was the last time that you thought about the tires that are on your car? I’m willing to bet that it probably hasn’t been since you had a problem with them. Either the “low pressure” bulb on your dashboard lit up or you had a flat tire. However, I think that we can all agree that no matter how plain or fancy your car is, the tires are a critical part of it. What this means for you is that it would be nice if you could stay on top of what your tire’s current status was. Perhaps you could even discover a situation where you were going to have a flat tire before it happened.

Making Tires Smarter

When customers are thinking about their tires, product managers would them to think about the tire jack, an air pump, and perhaps consider an algorithm as a tool for fixing flats. Product managers at both Goodyear Tire & Rubber and Bridgestone have updated their product development definition and are rolling out new intelligent tire features that use sensors and artificial intelligence which are for use by vehicles delivering packages from e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com Inc. This new technology is geared toward vehicles that specialize in last-mile delivery, which refers to the final step in getting packages from a distribution center to the customer. The market for this last-mile delivery has picked up as consumer online shopping soared during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new technology from Goodyear is called SightLine and includes a sensor and proprietary machine-learning algorithms that can predict flat tires or other issues days ahead of time, by measuring tire wear, pressure, road-surface conditions and many other factors. The surge in last-mile deliveries that took off during the pandemic means that a lot more vehicles are on the road. These vehicles spend their time stopping and going, hitting curbs, causing damage to the tires, causing breakdowns and congestion. The last-mile delivery market is expected to grow to almost US$70 billion in four years. The volume of parcels is expected to grow to over 200 billion in four years. Getting a piece of this growing market would look good on anyone’s product manager resume.

In a pilot test using about 1,000 vehicles operated by 20 customers Goodyear’s SightLine was able to detect 90% of their tire-related issues ahead of time. The SightLine product builds off sensor technology that has been in the works for several years. The Goodyear product manages already sell tires to large commercial trucking customers that can measure temperature and pressure, but the SightLine system contains more advanced technology. This technology includes a sensor that tracks dozens of measurements such as tire wear, inflation and road-surface conditions and a battery that detects temperature, pressure, acceleration and vibration.

Next Steps For Smart Tires

The Goodyear product also includes a device that ingests data and communicates with Goodyear’s cloud, which analyzes the data in real time using proprietary machine-learning algorithms. The Goodyear product mangers hope that vehicles using Goodyear’s intelligent tires can shorten the stopping distance lost by wear and tear on a tire by about 30%. Last-mile delivery vehicles can easily go through four sets of tires a year. This is highly inefficient from a cost and sustainability perspective. Tire product managers have historically focused on customers in the long-haul trucking sector.

They are now developing an intelligent tire system that uses sensors, AI algorithms and “digital twins” . These digital twins are digital representations of physical tires on vehicles, to predict when tires will wear out on delivery vehicles and whether the tires are still in good health for retreading. Product managers realize that putting a new tread on a used tire that still has life in it is better for the environment than sending it to a landfill. Compared with new tires, customers who use retreaded tires reduce carbon emissions by 24% and reduce air pollution by 21%. The technology is in the final stages of testing with last-mile delivery partners and should launch in the next few months.

Product managers at Bridgestone Americas already have several intelligent tire features available for customers in the mining and commercial trucking industries. The motivation for buying the intelligent tires is that they can help detect tire-related problems before they happen and can lead to fewer breakdowns, less traffic congestion and increased safety for last-mile delivery drivers. Tire manufacturer product managers are investing more heavily in the field of telematics, which refers to the use of technology to collect and monitor data relating to a vehicle or parts of a vehicle. Telematics is an area that is expected to become an important part of electric vehicles and self-driving cars in the future. It allows a manufacture and an owner to get more information about a vehicle’s maintenance status, emissions and safety at any given point in time.

Product managers believe that making drivers aware of potential tire-related problems ahead of time makes good business sense. The thinking is that drivers will pay to get tires serviced. A larger portion of tire makers’ revenue is now coming from the services side, as people are buying fewer cars overall. The product managers’ goal is to have access to the data, not just when they make the product but after they sell it. It will allow them to serve their customers on an ongoing basis.

What All Of This Means For You

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the tires that are on their car. Instead, they’ll only think about them when it’s either time to replace them or they have a flat. Product managers want to change this. They want to update their product manager job description and create tire products that will allow customers to know the current state of their tires so that they can take action before they have a problem.

One of the first target customers for the new intelligent tires are the home delivery last-mile vehicles that have popped up in the past few years. The new intelligent tires measure a number of different factors and use this information to predict when a vehicle may be getting ready to have a flat tire. Intelligent tires are not new. They have been sold to large commercial trucking firms. However, the new technology has more sensors and can make more and better predications. The new smart tires have the ability to communicate through the cloud. New tires allow a model of the tire to be created that can determine when retreading the tire would extend its life. Intelligent tires can lead to fewer breakdowns. Intelligent tires may lead to customers having their tires serviced and this could boost profits.

We live in a changing world. Tire product managers have discovered a new market in which an increase in delivery trucks has created a need for more information about the tires that these trucks are using. New intelligent tires have been created that have the ability to monitor a tire and to notify people before there is an issue with the tire. This new technology has clear business benefits. We’ll have to watch and see just how successful this new breed of intelligent tires are.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Even if cost more, would you be willing to put intelligent tires on your car?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Product managers who have picky customers have a difficult job. Wine product managers have very picky customers and may have the toughest jobs of all. Wine is all about taste and a sensitive customer’s tongue can detect a great deal about the grapes that are used to make a particular bottle of wine. This can be good news for a wine product manager – a good tasting bottle of wine can sell for a lot. However, a bad tasting bottle of wine might not sell at all. Wildfires in California might impact how this season’s grapes taste. What’s a product manager to do?