Tyre maker Goodyear has unveiled two futuristic concepts at this year's Geneva motor show, headlined by the Eagle-360, a radical new design intended for the driverless cars of tomorrow.
Yes, if you were wondering, the ‘360’ in the concept’s name refers to the totally round shape of the tyre - a ballsy proposition, right?
In a press release, Goodyear believes that the autonomous vehicle revolution will not only redefine the role of drivers, but also the role (and the roll) of tyres.
The idea of a ball-shaped tyre isn’t completely new - Will Smith’s futuristic Audi R8-previewing RSQ in the movie I, Robot hinted at the concept back in 2004.
While the spherical design has several benefits, including better control from the larger contact patch with the ground, Goodyear has primarily developed the Eagle-360 to have the “manoeuvrability, connectivity and biomimicry for autonomous mobility”. That's a mouthful.
The tread of the Eagle-360 mimics the pattern of a brain coral, while the tread compound draws inspiration from a natural sponge that “stiffens when dry yet softens when wet”, which avoids aquaplaning by ejecting absorbed water from the road using centrifugal force - the effect that moves an object away from the centre of the circle or circular object that is rotating it.
Goodyear argues that spherical tyres can be omnidirectional, allowing cars to go sideways as opposed to being restricted to going forwards or backwards to turn right or left.
The Eagle-360’s unique design could put an end to the miserable prospect of failing a parallel park, allowing cars to pull up alongside a parallel space and easily roll into it sideways at a 90-degree angle.
The tyres also feature a magnetic levitation system to suspend the car slightly off the ground which results in a “smooth, quiet ride of the passenger”.
Goodyear also presented its more conventional IntelliGrip concept, which is designed to “communicate with vehicle control systems to sense and share information about road conditions for improved driving safety and performance”.
Acting as a ‘smart tyre’, the Goodyear IntelliGrip concept tyre is designed to make the the car literally 'at one' with the road, constantly assessing road and tyre conditions and sending this information to the vehicle’s control systems.
The IntelliGrip tyre was developed primarily for autonomous vehicles, where the array of sensors can communicate road conditions, tyre wear, tyre pressure and temperature to the vehicle’s control systems to adapt its speed, shorten stopping distances, improve cornering response and even support collision prevention systems.
Both tyres have been designed with safety in mind - a key concern among consumers on the topic of driverless technology.
While these tyres are currently just concepts, Goodyear’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Joseph Zekoski, says that the prototypes represent an essential aspect of Goodyear’s innovation strategy and its vision of smart and safe mobility.
“By steadily reducing the (driver’s) interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tyres will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road,” he said.
Zekoski added that the concept tyres play a role as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking as well as being testbeds for next-generation technologies.