Researchers Find That Radar Can Be Used to Detect a Nail in a Tire Long Before It Goes Flat

Your car’s dashboard is a smorgasbord of information when it comes to the health and performance of your vehicle. But the one thing it can’t warn drivers about is when the tread on their tires has worn out. It’s a safety risk that researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are focusing on with a new real-time monitoring system that relies on radar.

Osprey uses millimeter-wave radar components that are already widely available for automotive applications, but mounted in a vehicle’s wheel wells, and focused on the surface of each tire.

The high-speed spinning motion of a tire actually improves the accuracy of millimeter-wave radar sensors to sub-millimeter measurements. By bouncing signals off of a tire and precisely measuring how long it takes them to return, the Osprey system can not only measure the depth of a tire’s tread, it knows how those measurements have changed over time, potentially giving drivers an estimate of how long until they need to pony up for a new set of wheels.