Michelin event in Montreal explores future of transport

The Movin’On Summit attracted hundreds of innovators from across the world to discuss sustainable mobility.

July 2019

Tyson Fisher

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MONTREAL – In June, Michelin held its annual Movin’On Summit, a three-day conference exploring sustainable mobility. Among the many events, Michelin announced its new prototype tire called Uptis, an airless tire the company made in collaboration with General Motors.

 

Uptis

On June 4, Michelin introduced a new airless, prototype tire called Uptis. The tire was created in collaboration with General Motors to create airless wheel technology, reducing the risks of flat tires.

Uptis, or Unique Puncture-proof Tire System, was announced during the summit. Michelin and GM reached a research agreement that intends to make the Uptis tire available for passenger vehicles as early as 2024.

By reducing the possibility of flat tires, Uptis will allow safer driving for commuters, Michelin said. Passenger vehicle fleets will potentially save money by reducing downtime caused by flat tires and other issues arising from tires that use air.

Using improvements in tire architecture and composite materials, the tires can handle a passenger vehicle’s weight at moving speeds. Michelin estimates that as many as

200 million tires are scrapped prematurely due to punctures, improper air pressure and other damages caused by the roads.

GM will begin testing Uptis tires on its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. A test fleet of Bolts will hit the streets of Michigan later this year.

Uptis is part of Michelin’s Vision concept that was launched two years ago at its Movin’On Summit. The concept includes four areas of innovations towards sustainable mobility: airless, connected, 3D-printed and 100% sustainable, which means completely renewable or bio-sourced materials.

“Uptis is an ideal fit for propelling the automotive industry into the future and a great example of how our customers benefit when we collaborate and innovate with our supplier partners,” said Steve Kiefer, GM’s senior vice president of global purchasing and supply chain.

According to a Michelin spokesperson, both companies are focusing on passenger vehicles at the moment. Any potential application for larger vehicles will have to wait until at least after the five-year development process for the current passenger vehicle prototype.

 

Autonomous technology

A conference called “New Roadmap for Autonomous Vehicles: Rebuilding Trust” attracted a large crowd. One speaker Hadi Zablit, senior vice president of business development for the Renaul-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, identified some of the issues with autonomous vehicles.

To start, Zablit suggested that cost and efficiency need to greatly improve in order to expedite the launch of autonomous vehicles. People will have less incentive to adopt AVs if they are more expensive, yet less efficient, than traditional vehicles.

Kristopher Carter, co-chairman of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, discussed public perception of self-driving cars. One way the city of Boston addressed this issue was by holding what it called an AV “petting zoo.”

In October 2017, Boston launched an event formally called “Robot Block Party.” In addition to a variety of robotic technologies, several autonomous vehicles were featured at the event in a section dubbed Autonomous Vehicle Petting Zoo. The public was allowed to get up close and personal with autonomous vehicles and learn about the technologies.

Carter also suggested that there should be more focus on autonomous vehicles within mass transportation rather than single-occupant vehicles. Several larger cities are trying to push commuters toward mass transit in an attempt to take more vehicles off the road, thereby enhancing safety.

Carter said there needs to be a “paradigm shift” within society. More specifically, he said when it comes to transportation, people need to shift from an individualistic mentality (i.e., single-occupant vehicles) to a more communal mentality (i.e., mass transit).

Considering that, it does not sound like self-driving cars will be hitting the highways anytime soon. Pierre Schaeffer, chief marketing officer and senior vice president for ground transport solutions company Thales, said we will likely see autonomous rail before we see AV cars.

Explaining the reason for AV trains first, Schaeffer said the technology will first need to be geofenced, which is more feasible with trains and other forms of public transportation. Even then, a human will need to operate.

Schaeffer compared AVs to elevators. Before elevators were automated, they required a human operator. Even after technology allowed elevators to move themselves, people still required a human operator inside for peace of mind before the general public gradually became comfortable with the technology. The same logic will apply with AVs, Schaeffer said.

 

Fuel cell- and battery-powered trucks

One workshop titled “Identification of solutions to increase the range of fuel cell- and battery-powered heavy-duty trucks” brought in about two dozen stakeholders to collaborate and find ways to make alternative fuels more efficient.

Participants were split into groups that worked on one of five focus areas:

  • Battery technologies and infrastructure.
  • Fuel cell technologies and infrastructure.
  • Aerodynamic technologies.
  • Light weighting/tires/axles technologies.
  • Fleet operation adaptations.

The group most relevant to owner-operators, fleet operation adaptations, identified infrastructure, equipment availability and grid reliability as three major roadblocks for electric trucks. The solution: an electric truck highway in heavy freight corridor areas.

More specifically, participants suggested that a corridor dedicated in favor of electric trucks could help solve issues arising from the identified roadblocks. The dedicated corridor may not necessarily be exclusive to electric trucks, but a toll on diesel trucks or some other factors favorable to electric trucks could be installed, such as longer combos for electric trucks.

The electric truck-dedicated corridor could help with availability because of dedication from carriers. Such dedication would incentivize investment into charging stations throughout that corridor.

One area that the groups agreed on was more investment from original equipment manufacturers. It was suggested that if more OEMs invest in the science and research, technological advances could be expedited. LL

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.

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