"If a car does not have an active driver to ensure that the tires are safe to use, safety needs to be measured in another way," said Mika Penttila, head of digital technology for Nokian Tyres.
Autonomous cars, for example, will be able to calculate the prevailing driving conditions using information received from tires combined with weather data. Tire sensors also can monitor tire wear, inflation pressure and the temperature inside the tire.
Smart tires also enable new tire-related service models that can be used even before we ever see autonomous cars on the streets.
This could mean an "effortless and unnoticeable" purchase of new tires when car tires are worn down, Penttilae said.
The tire can relay the wear data to the onboard information system, which notifies the driver that the tires can be used safely for another three months, for example.
"This is similar to how current cars can notify the driver that they are running out of fuel and provide navigation guidance to the nearest service station," said Jukka Kasi, senior vice president, products and marketing.
Preventive maintenance becomes especially important as the popularity of shared-use vehicles increases, and especially once they start operating autonomously.
While tire-pressure-monitoring systems already are well-known to consumers, Nokian said more advanced technology has, so far, been reserved for professional use. For instance, Nokian Tyres Intuitu is a concept for agriculture and contracting tires that combines tires with embedded sensors and a mobile app for data collection.
Kasi expects solutions like Intuitu will become commonplace in consumer use, even before autonomous vehicles on the roads.
"Smart tires will first become common on electric vehicles, since they have large tires and lots of sensors and links to the tires. This will happen in about five years," he said.