Rather than measuring tread wear visually, as a human would do, Continental's tread depth measuring technology is actually just software that uses the sensors employed by the company's tyre pressure monitoring system to new effect.
According to Continental, the software is able to detect gradual changes in a tyre's rolling characteristics. To determine the level of tread wear, the system then compares the information it's receiving from the car's tyres with an on-board store of data amassed during Continental's own testing.
Once a tyre has passed the manufacturer's pre-determined threshold amount of wear, it will alert the driver via light in the instrument cluster and, possibly, warning messages on the trip computer screen. Continental suggests that cars fitted with a telematics system could even alert the local service centre or dealership that a tyre change is required.
Tyres that are eventually fitted with the tread depth monitor will still feature tread wear indicators, which allow drivers and authorities alike to quickly perform visual inspections.
Continental is working on other technologies based on the existing tyre pressure monitoring system. This includes load monitoring software that will notify drivers about overloaded axles, which should prove handy for those who often fill the boot to capacity during holiday trips or tow trailers and boats.
There's no specific release date for these new technologies, but Continental says that the tread depth monitor is "tentatively slated to be available as of 2017".