At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Goodyear really has re-invented the wheel by unveiling two new tire concepts designed with autonomous vehicles in mind – including a spherical tire that allows cars to drive sideways.
The Eagle-360 concept is a perfect sphere that attaches to a car by magnetic levitation rather than axles, enabling it to rotate on any axis and move the car in any direction. This should make parking much easier and could lead to smaller car parks. Goodyear added that the tire’s shape will improve passenger safety thanks to the increased maneuverability they give vehicles.
Additionally, the Eagle-360 tire features integrated sensors that can monitor weather and road conditions, feeding the information back to the car’s autonomous systems. It can also communicate with nearby vehicles or the local traffic system, and is able to extend its life by monitoring its treads and pressure, rotating itself for more even wear and longer mileage.
Goodyear has used biomimicry when designing the Eagle, which is the imitation of elements found in nature for the solving of complex human problems. In this case, the tire’s 3D-printed design copies that of the brain coral, allowing the tire to stiffen in dry conditions and soften in the wet, altering the way it acts depending on the conditions of a road surface.
While it may be a long time before the Eagle-360 becomes a reality (if ever), Goodyear’s other concept, the Intelligrip, is said to be already under consideration by car manufacturers.
Intelligrip may resemble a more traditional tire, but it contains many of the same features as the Eagle-360, including the monitoring sensors and special treads. The tire has also been designed specifically for autonomous vehicles, and can work in conjunction with self-driving cars’ anti-collision systems.
"By steadily reducing the driver interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tires will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road," says Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear's senior vice president and chief technical officer. "Goodyear's concept tires play a dual role in that future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and testbeds for next-generation technologies."
The company says it’s working with vehicle companies to use some of Intelligrip’s technology as a way of enhancing current car features such as Electronic Stability Control Systems, Brake Control Systems, and Suspension Control Systems.
Like all concepts, we may never actually see these products in the real world. Hopefully, we will, as an autonomous vehicle that can move in any direction and has magnetically levitating tires sounds pretty cool. Next step: flying cars.