Tyre pressure monitoring improves safety – when it works on the road!

August 30, 2018

The car industry is facing another case of technology not performing in real driving conditions – this time over tyre pressure monitoring. With a new laboratory test forcing carmakers to deal with more accurate emissions readings after years of tests that showed around 40% lower emissions than in real-world driving, devices that show whether a car’s tyres are dangerously underinflated have also been found to underperform, leading to increased danger and fuel consumption.

When tyre pressure goes below a certain level, it can lead to reductions in a car’s safety performance – through poor vehicle handling, increased stopping distances, aquaplaning and premature tyre wear – as well as increased fuel consumption. Since November 2014, it has been obligatory for all new cars sold in the EU to be fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), and a new study shows that cars with the systems fitted are far safer than those without. However, the same evidence shows that TPMS devices are underperforming on the open road.

There are two types of monitoring devices for tyre pressure: direct TPMS, which relies on sensors to measure pressure, and indirect TPMS, where software is used to estimate pressure. A study commissioned by T&E and carried out by the independent certification agency Dekra shows direct systems are more effective in alerting drivers to the dangers of underinflated tyres, but both types of TPMS are underperforming in real conditions. The study, based on 1,000 random cars fitted with and without TPMS in Italy and Portugal, concludes that around 330,000 cars sold last year could be putting their occupants at risk because of underperforming TPMS.

T&E’s clean vehicles engineer Florent Grelier said: ‘Once again we find ourselves pointing out the obvious – that what matters for safety is not what happens in a test lab but what happens on the road. TPMS has been shown to improve safety for drivers and it can also help save fuel, in fact the greatest fuel-saving potential is with heavy goods vehicles. This makes the case even stronger for TPMS to be obligatory in all cars, vans, buses, and trucks sold in the EU.’

Only new cars are currently subject to mandatory TPMS. The EU is currently reviewing its General Safety Regulation, and the Commission has proposed to extend TPMS to all road vehicles. The Dekra study confirms that fitting TPMS devices enhances driver safety and assists with fuel efficiency, and thus adds to the weight of evidence supporting the extension of TPMS to all vehicles.

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