Usually you can't tell that there's a problem with one of your tires until you've already swerved off the road and crashed into something stationary, but thanks to a group of scientists from Purdue University, the next generation of wheel wraps may be able to detect problems before you're face-to-face with the base of a telephone pole. Led by Gary Krutz of the school's Electrohydraulic Center, the team was able to produce a multi-layer design that can sense damage or defects anywhere on the tire, and which immediately alerts the driver to danger via an embedded chip. First up to adopt the new tech will likely be race car sponsors, who have a high incentive to protect their expensive investments against flats; unfortunately, this safety improvement for drivers will come at the expense of the nation's rabid NASCAR fans, as the likely decline in crashes will only serve to direct their blood-lust at fellow spectators.

[Image courtesy of Purdue University]