With increasing concern about climate change, sustainability has become a strategic priority for the automotive industry. Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, says that their advances in tire technology have a crucial role to play in reducing the emissions produced by transport.
Headquartered in Dubai, the company’s mission since 1968 has been “Serving society with superior quality” but how will this stand up to today’s customer demands?
Stefano Sanchini, Regional Managing Director, Middle East & Africa at Bridgestone says that the company’s founder Shōjirō Ishibashi, was ahead of his time:
“‘Serving society with superior quality’ has been driving most of the action and decisions that we have taken during this last 50 years. When we look ahead to the 2050 vision, which is to create social and customer value as a sustainable solution company, I was really excited to see how modern this corporate mission was.”
Today, Bridgestone is fundamentally centered on tires, but they are looking beyond this to the wider mobility ecosystem. The needs of electric vehicles will be different and the company has to respond with a product that is fit for purpose.
Further, the company itself is aiming to transform their operations and manufacturing with the goal of carbon neutrality through the full value chain and the product life cycle with sustainable products by 2050.
Sanchini says that the answer lies in the circular economy:
“We know that it is a long journey to sustainability, but we are fully committed to a positive change for people and for the planet. We strongly believe in the circular economy. This means reuse, repair, redesign, re-manufacturing products for more sustainable production and consumption.”
Tires are the point where the vehicle meets the road and the quality and condition of the tire affects fuel consumption, steering, braking and acceleration. Sanchini says that data collection is crucial to understanding the performance of the whole vehicle:
“Data will give real insights to the operator of the vehicle to maximize their performance and safety. This data is collected through RFID sensors and telematics, then analyzed with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our innovative technology of virtual tire development predicts the performance of a new tire without even producing and driving it.”
Testing prototype tires in digital space first makes sense: a new tire may be tested over 40,000km. Failing early in the virtual world is a lot safer and more cost effective than failing on the road.
Sensors have a role to play in detecting damage as well, as Sanchini explains:
“We are working with Microsoft on our tire damage monitoring system to maximize road safety and minimize accidents coming from technical filler. With this new technology, the agency responsible for the road will have visibility on when and where the damage happened so we can map pits and plan repairs.”
Bridgestone is building a future, then, in which tires are tested virtually before they are manufactured. They will be tailored to the vehicle on which they are fitted. And they will transmit information not only to the driver but to authorities, protecting both the driver and the built environment.
GIven that he sees every vehicle from the ground up, what will the car of tomorrow look like?
“The oil industry and the automotive sector are going through a massive disruption,” says Sanchini.
“The car of tomorrow will be quite different from what we are used to seeing. Imagine a connected vehicle, autonomous, shared, and most of all electric. Electrification is an unstoppable trend which we are supporting with tires that best match the requirements of electric vehicles. We have breakthrough technology to optimize the tire and reduce noise, as well as reducing the rolling resistance of the tire by 30 percent with a 20 percent reduction in weight.”
Weight is an important factor with electric vehicles, and Bridgestone is working closely with the major manufacturing companies like BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Audi and Nissan, as well as a number of promising newcomers in the electric vehicle field.
Sanchini believes that to create a sustainable future, everyone has to transform and grasp opportunity:
“Disruptive times bring challenges, but also unique opportunities. We are looking with enthusiasm to transform the company from a worldwide tire manufacturer to a global leader in mobility solutions. We've been acquiring innovative companies to become a more diverse digital and future-oriented business.”
The solution to our biggest challenge is also one that people have always faced: working together. Companies like Bridgestone are in the driving seat to make a difference.