The invention of the wheel was one of the most groundbreaking moments in the history of mankind. Around the year 3500 BC, the way people travelled was revolutionized and led to the widespread use of carts, chariots, coaches and eventually, cars.
However, when it comes to drivers, and passengers’ safety and comfort, as well as to the durability of wheels itself, the greatest change came with the introduction of rubber tyres in the 1800s. For that, credit goes to two Scotts, Robert William Thomson and John Boyd Dunlop. The latter opened a first tyre factory under the name Dunlop Tyres in Ireland, in 1890. That brand has been associated with quality products ever since and is still a very popular choice, with car owners.
Arguably, the expansion of the whole automotive industry would be impossible without the invention of rubber tyres. Without them, travelling by cars would simply be too uncomfortable for most people. Tyres also allowed for greater speeds, providing vehicles with much needed traction and made the first racing and rally event possible as early as 1895!
After all, when we use the brake pedal while driving, how soon our car comes to a complete stop is not only up to the brakes. We also rely on the tyres that we use, to keep us safe on the road regardless of weather conditions. Further improvements came with the introduction of synthetic rubber, that reduced the demand for harvesting latex from the rubber trees as well as the radial tyre, that increased flexibility and ride comfort, an invention by another big name in the industry, French company Michelin.
Today, we can hardly imagine transportation or traveling without tyres. An astonishing 2.5 billion tyres are produced annually and brands like Dunlop and Michelin are still important market players. And it isn’t just the automotive industry that relies on a constant supply. After all, bicycles, motorcycles, industrial machines and planes, they all need tyres too.
There are various kinds of car tyres in production, that cater to a wide range of drivers. We use different types for winter and summer season, both made of special rubber mixtures that provide better performance in either low or high temperatures, on wet and snowy roads. Another type of tyres is used for off-road cars which might need that extra grip when crossing mud, going up or downhill. Finally, there are performance tyres, carefully designed for great velocities, and top tier, marked with speed symbol W, can safely reach even up to 270 kilometres per hour. Without those, millions of fans around the world simply wouldn’t be able to hold their breath while watching WRC or Formula 1 championships.
There is a lot of good news when it comes to future developments in tyre technologies, both for those who drive to commute as well as for motorsports enthusiasts. We can definitely expect substantial improvements in safety and comfort for drivers and their passengers.
From self-sealing and airless tyres that are going to require less maintenance, to those reducing road noise, to new versions of threads for better control in tight-radius turns and shortest braking distance on both dry and wet surfaces. And let’s not forget energy saving tyres, for better fuel efficiency, to keep more money in our pockets. The biggest and most advanced companies like Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental are working tirelessly in cooperation with car manufacturers and the effects are driven by us.
Images from Evolution of Tyres