"Electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles are different entities, with different sets of rules," Nehls said.
Smithers conducts third-party, independent testing for every tire manufacturer on every type of tire, according to Nehls. In its testing, Smithers has found that EVs create new performance expectations, but AVs add expectations beyond that, he said.
"AV tire development will not detract from EV development, especially for AV/EV vehicles, and AV technology will be applicable to all engine power types," he said.
The "cool factor" of EVs has caused an exponential increase in the sale of luxury EVs, according to Nehls. "Tesla's boom in sales is the primary factor in the EV sales jump," he said.
Urbanization and aggressive regulation of air pollutants also are driving the popularity of EVs, which should further increase as battery range improves and the number of charging stations increases, Nehls said.
However, EVs present new challenges for tire design, according to Nehls. Tires for EVs must handle higher and differently distributed vehicle weight compared with gasoline-powered vehicles, he said. They must also handle higher torque, reduce cabin noise and provide lower rolling resistance.
AVs are governed by a different set of parameters, according to Nehls. Their development is driven by the need to reduce accidents and traffic congestion. The automation of trucking and buses is also a significant factor, he said.
Intelligent tires connected in real time are a must for AVs, Nehls said. So are excellent traction for self-braking vehicles; ride comfort to make up for additional vibration; run-flat capabilities; and reduced emphasis on speed capabilities to achieve the desired vehicle dynamics, he said.
"Intelligent tire innovation shouldn't wait for AVs," Nehls said. "Tires need to keep pace with innovation in transportation, mobile technology, and customer expectations. Tire intelligence is needed now."