Continental has launched the world's first fully-automated, weather-independent tyre testing facility.
Situated at the Contidrom near Hanover in Germany, the new facility will boast an Automated Indoor Braking Analyser (AIBA) capable of performing around 100,000 individual braking procedures a year once it is up and running.
The new system will be used to test the tyre technologies incorporated across all of its ranges, including passenger cars, vans and 4x4s, as well as summer and winter compounds.
Testing will take place all-year-round in a 300-metre hall where unmanned test vehicles will accelerate to speeds of up to 120kmph on interchangeable, temperature-controlled road services before braking.
In order to ensure that all weather conditions can be appropriately tested, the facility will use both wet and dry road surfaces, while a special ice rink has also been constructed for conventional testing.
Continental said that the facility will enable it to become the first tyre manufacturer to perform in-house tests all year round, regardless of the weather conditions.
Revolutionising tyre testing
David O'Donnell, head of research and development for passenger and light truck tyres at Continental, said that the AIBA will revolutionise modern tyre testing procedures.
"With this new facility at our test track, we benefit from the most accurate braking test procedures in the world," he said.
"Here, we can combine the advantages of laboratory testing with those of outdoor testing for vehicles. This has enabled us to improve reproduceability by 70 per cent, which means that we can measure development progress with an optimum degree of precision."
Previously, tyre testers have been required to carry out tests under variable environmental conditions, with things such as fluctuating road temperatures and wind levels making it harder to compare results in different scenarios.
However, Mr O'Donnell noted that the new system completely removes any such interference, while its automated nature means that test drivers are placed under less strain.
Getting the most out of safer tyres
While testing is an important step in ensuring that tyres are as safe as possible, these benefits will not be felt if road users are not operating their vehicles in the correct manner. To this end, Continental has also launched its Youth Safe-Driving Programme for 2012/2013.
The scheme aims to ensure that younger drivers, who are involved in a disproportionately high number of road accidents, are acting responsibly behind the wheel. Continental estimates that road incidents are the leading cause of death by injury and the 11th leading cause of fatalities worldwide.
But beyond this toll, accidents also exert heavy costs on individuals in terms of their finances and emotions. The key is to ensure that drivers are better informed about what they should and shouldn't be doing behind the wheel.
This is something that will then be able to feed into the other choices they make – whether it's to do with the type of tyres they buy online, picking an insurance provider that will reward them with lower premiums for sensible driving or avoiding night-time driving wherever possible.
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Posted by Danielle Barge