As tire manufacturers enter the age of the Internet of Things, some are making smart tires equipped with sensors that allow the consumer to view information regarding the tire on applications downloaded to their smart phones. These tires contain small sensors in their sidewalls that do not impact tire performance. The sensors can track the tire’s temperature, the tire’s inflation pressure, the tire’s mileage and even the tire’s load capacity. Not only the consumer can view this information, but so can service technicians maintaining the vehicle and tire.

If this technology could soon be available on a broad basis to most tire manufacturers and consumers, it could be a good thing in terms of safety and will likely result in a reduction of product liability claims. Like tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), which are now required in all new cars, smart tires could revolutionize tire maintenance. TPMS have reduced the amount of accidents due to underinflated tires because the consumers are now aware of when the tire has to be properly inflated through a warning light on the dashboard. Smart tires could have the same impact and enhance the information being provided by TPMS.

Smart tires, however, could lead to new claims and bring new defendants into the fray. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and their experts will be looking for this data in their accident investigations and may implicate the sensor that is in the tire or the software of the application on the user’s smartphone in their product defect allegations. Accordingly, even though smart-tire technology might make the tires ultimately safer and reduce the amount of claims for things such as underinflation, there is a strong possibility that smart tires also could lead to new types of product defect claims against tire manufacturers.

We will continue to track the application of smart-tire technology and whether it does in fact reduce claims and improve tire-related safety. Please check back with us for updates in this regard.