Tyrata’s sensor technology, which has been licensed from Duke University, can determine the real-time tread wear of tires on the road. The sensor can be linked to data analytics systems to improve safety in consumer vehicles, reduce maintenance costs in fleet-management operations, and provide critical data for autonomous vehicles, says the company.

“With all the technology and sensors in today’s cars, it’s kind of crazy to think that there’s almost no data being gathered from the only part of the vehicle that is actually touching the road,” says the developer of the technology, Aaron Franklin, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and chemistry at Duke. “Our tire tread sensor is the perfect marriage between high-end technology and a simple solution.”

The technology is based on the mechanics of how electric fields interact with different materials. The core of the sensor comprises two small closely placed electrodes, one with an oscillating electrical voltage applied to it while the other is grounded, forming an electric field between them.

While most of the electric field passes directly between the two electrodes, some of the field – called the “fringing field” – arcs between them. When a material – such as a tire tread – is placed on top of the electrodes, it interferes with the fringing field. That interference can then be measured through the electrical response of the grounded electrode, making it possible to determine the thickness of the material covering the sensor.

The researchers have shown that their sensor design is sensitive enough to work with the thick treads of semi-trailer truck tires, and that using carbon nanotubes allows the sensor to track millimeter-scale changes in tread depth with high accuracy and sensitivity. The sensors, they say, could easily signal when it’s time to replace tires or report information about uneven and often dangerous tire wear.

The $4.5 million in series A financing was raised from several investors, including a leading investment by Dealer Tire, LLC, a provider of replacement tires and automotive parts for automotive dealerships.


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