Go ahead and kick the tires. The computer can take it. Or computer chip, to be exact.
Within five years, some of the 90 million tires produced annually for North America will include computer chips called tags. Mounted on or inside tires, the tags can be read with radio frequency identification devices, offering such information as serial numbers, which can be used in a tire recall.
Tagging tires could save tire makers time by revealing the minute of manufacture, reducing the need to sort through huge batches of inventory.
The chips hold other promises. Automakers may include assembly line matching of a set of tires and wheels to a car, or in-sequence shipping and inventory control of tire and wheel assemblies.
But for the system to work globally, it needed to be useful to all automakers.
In a rare example of technology driving its own standard, an Automotive Industry Action Group committee representing automakers, tire suppliers and technology companies developed a single, global standard for the technology.
That is noteworthy for several reasons. Typically, standards for emerging technology trail the technology's introduction. But the radio frequency identification set a benchmark for reaching consensus on emerging technology.
The speed at which the standard was created - about a year - also is noteworthy. Participants said a rapid agreement came about partly because of legislation after the Firestone tire recall and partly because of the practical application for the technology.