AKRON, Ohio - Technology able to track tires from cradle to grave using radio-frequency waves is developing slowly but surely, tire makers say.
Radio-frequency identification has received a significant buzz from the industry in the past few years, particularly because the technology could help tire dealers track inventory more accurately and help narrow the scope of tire recalls.
The Big 3 tire makers, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Michelin Group, are working to bring their version of the technology to market and see it become the industry's standard.
In the commercial tire segment, radio-frequency tire tags are used to monitor tire pressure and temperature, a function Michelin North America Inc. rolled out in 2002 with its eTire System.
Goodyear, meanwhile, is running trial radio-frequency tags on about 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles to see whether the tags can last for the life of a tire, says Steve Roth, Goodyear's director of vehicle systems.
Guy Walenga, Bridgestone/Firestone's manager for North American commercial products, says he believes implementation of radio-frequency identification tags probably are "more than a couple years away" because there is no industry standardization.
It's also uncertain, he says, whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will mandate tire pressure monitoring systems on truck tires.
For this reason, Walenga says, Bridgestone/Firestone is not rushing to get radio-frequency identification devices on the market. The company wants to develop a device that goes beyond reading product codes.
Walenga says the company has asked fleets and dealers, "What if we could provide a way to electronically maintain inventories, do billing, read DOT numbers of product codes on tires, but that's all? Or, what if we could do all that, plus read tire pressure and temperature?"
Walenga says almost everybody responds, "We'll wait until you can do tire pressure and temperature. Do everything."