PHOENIX — In the computing world there's Pentium, Pentium II and Pentium III. In the tire world there's UNI-T, UNI-T/AQ and UNI-T/AQ II. And although tire engineers don't move as quickly as their counterparts in the computer industry, tire technology advances just as inexorably.

Consumer and automaker demand for tires that ride better, last longer, perform better as they wear and provide more grip on wet surfaces has led the Nashville, TN-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to continue to evolve its longstanding and well-marketed UNI-T (Ultimate Network of Intelligent Tire) technology. Bridgestone's new Potenza S03 Pole Position and RE950 tires — which debut this spring — will feature the latest iteration of UNI-T: UNI-T/AQ II.

“The new UNI-T/AQ II technologies have allowed us to improve wet and dry handling performance as the tire wears, providing a more consistent level of characteristics throughout the tire's life,” says Shu Ishibashi, president of Bridgestone-Firestone's U.S. Consumer Tire Group. “We believe the tires' capabilities will earn the difficult-to-gain respect of those who appreciate performance-car driving.”

UNI-T, which debuted on Bridgestone/Firestone products in the mid-1990s, is a combination of material, design and construction technology that focuses on making tires last longer and perform better in wet conditions. These are L.L. (Long-Link) Carbon, which reinforces and stabilizes tire rubber by changing the carbon molecules used in carbon black, O-bead technologies that enhance performance through improvements in how a tire interacts with its wheel and CO-CS (Computer Optimized-Component System), which optimizes tread design, casting shape and construction.

UNI-T/AQ arrived later in the decade and added EPO (Extended Performance Compound), which comprised a second layer of softer-compound tread — exposed as the tire wears — to further enhance a tire's wet and worn performance.

Side-by-side performance-car tests of Bridgestone-Firestone products, versus competing tires on wet courses, proves the company's boasts.

UNI-T/AQ II debuts in consumer replacement tires early this year. It addresses the effects of aging tires by creating Super EPO, which consists of chemical additives that re-crosslink sulfur and slow oil migration to prevent tire hardening. Also, the softer second layer of tread is exposed on the center rib of the tire when new.

Even newer tire technologies offered by UNI-T/AQ II include Particle Z, a filler material, which along with silicon helps rubber maintain its flexibility and improves wet-road performance.

A new H-E-S (Hydro Evacuation System) uses small grooves cut into the inside of the treads to channel water away from the tread more efficiently.

Still more performance improvements come from C-S-C (Consistent Surface Contact), which utilizes computer-optimized designs to create a pattern of tread blocks that results in more-uniform contact pressure between the tire and the road. This helps prevent irregular wear and also results in better ride comfort.

Recent side-by-side comparisons of the new Potenza RE950 with UNI-T/AQ II and a comparable Michelin resulted in a virtual dead heat when the tires were driven new on dry pavement. But when aged and shaved to 50% of their tread, the Potenza shows a marked advantage, particularly in cornering and accelerating on a wet course.