Michelin Acquires Simulation Software Specialist Canopy Simulations for ‘Virtual Driver’ Tyre Development

Michelin has acquired UK-based simulation software specialist Canopy Simulations.

Simulators are the ideal tool for the development of tyres for racing or production sports cars. The process is efficient and more environmentally friendly than traditional development techniques due to a shorter development time and therefore a reduction in the consumption of raw materials and COemissions.

When it comes to tyre development processes, the combination of mathematical modelling and simulators makes it possible to determine which tyre sizes and technologies are best suited to a new car model based on technical and weight distribution characteristics.

At the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours, for example, all the prototypes competing in the race’s headlining Hypercar class will be equipped with tyres that were developed entirely using simulation software.

Canopy Simulations and the ‘virtual driver’

UK-based Canopy Simulations provides one of the market’s most sophisticated simulation software tools. Its cloud-based system combines circuit, car and tyre models with an advanced trajectory optimisation function to simulate the perfect ‘virtual driver’.

​It evolves to take increasingly detailed and varied driver models into account for both racetrack and road development applications.

When used for motorsport purposes, the virtual driver performs tasks such as a simulated four-hour stint at Le Mans to evaluate tyre consistency.

In the case of road tyres, it enables automotive manufacturers to reproduce a variety of driver profiles and different car and tyre usages.

​Humans nonetheless have the final say, since real drivers approve the tyre’s final specification and its match for the vehicle in question.

Accelerating tyre development innovations

In concrete terms, the technology reproduces dynamic reality thanks to the interaction of three digital models.

The first replicates the characteristics and grip properties of circuits; the second covers the properties of the vehicle’s chassis (or even the entire vehicle); and the third reproduces tyre behaviour in extreme detail. Behind the wheel of a simulator, drivers are able to test different types of tyre across an exceptionally wide spectrum of configurations.

​To complete the process, the drivers’ subjective impressions and feedback are taken onboard alongside the objective data provided by the simulator, on which drivers perform just as they would in a real car or on a real racetrack.

​“By accelerating innovations that favour increasingly efficient racing and mobility, simulation optimises Michelin’s work with its partners and vehicle manufacturers, while at the same time reducing its Research and Development environmental footprint and providing real savings compared with longer, more traditional development cycles,” says John Howe, MD of Michelin UK.

Michelin: a data-driven company and pioneer in the field of simulation

Introduced to motorsport 30 years ago to handle the data collected at races and for forecasting purposes, mathematical software underwent an initial transformation at the turn of the century. It evolved further in 2005 – at the time of Michelin’s involvement in Formula 1 – when the Group took the step of making its virtual tyres ‘dynamic’.

​Its research experts created independent mathematical models for each element of a tyre’s construction. Meanwhile, Michelin’s thermodynamic Tame Tire software made it possible for these different elements to interact by replicating the way they deform and how the properties and behaviour of raw materials and tyre pressures were influenced by temperature fluctuations.

​Tame Tire has since continued to evolve thanks to the abundance of technical data collected at races.

​Today, Michelin’s unique mathematical data processing expertise puts it a step ahead when it comes to tyre modelling, simulation, and development.

“The use of simulation technology for tyre testing and development is a necessary step forward in the industry. It enables Michelin to be more environmentally sustainable in its tyre development and testing processes, while benefitting from real-life data to keep developing tyres that offer drivers the level of performance they need,” concludes John Howe.