GOODYEAR has come up with a concept tyre that will make parallel parking and U-turns as simple as ABC.
The 3-D printed model presents a long-term vision of future mobility, in which autonomous driving is expected to be more mainstream.
The spherical Eagle-360 is Goodyear’s vision of a tyre for tomorrow’s autonomous cars, allowing high levels of manoeuvrability on crowded urban roads, along with important electronic feedback on tyre wear and road conditions.
The concept type was one of two revealed at this week’s Geneva motor show. For now, they remain a vision, but the American rubber company says work on such concepts is a key aspect of its innovation strategy.
Goodyear says the Eagle-360’s shape could contribute to safety and manoeuvrability to match the demands of autonomous mobility. As the multi-orientation tyres would move in all directions, they would be able to reduce sliding from potential hazards such as black ice or sudden obstacles, contributing to greater passenger safety. The shape could also improve ride comfort, providing a smooth ride by creating a fluid, lateral movement. A car could move around an obstacle without changing its driving direction.
Turning 360 degrees – which would be possible on spherical tyres – could also help motorists tackle anticipated parking constrictions; less space will be needed to pull into parking spots. Assuming public parking areas play the same role, Goodyear adds that this could significantly increase the capacity of public parking areas without increasing their size.
But how would a round tyre connect with the vehicle? Goodyear says it would use magnetic levitation to suspend the car, resulting in a smooth, quiet ride for the passengers.
The way it motivates the vehicle is not explained, although potentially that might also be achieved with an electro-magnetic force to spin the ball.
All this would require electricity, which might be problematic on an electric vehicle with limited battery capacity.
Presuming it could be achieved, the Eagle-360 would offer unprecedented low-speed manoeuvrability, allowing the vehicle to spin in any direction, turning in its own length, while also allowing the vehicle to move sideways into a parallel parking spot with just centimetres to spare.
Goodyear says the tyre would be embedded with sensors to communicate road and weather conditions, not just to the vehicle control system but other road users.
Tread and tyre pressure sensors would regulate tyre wear by adjusting the ‘wheel’ on the move.
Goodyear designers drew inspiration from a natural source – brain coral – for the 3D printed tread of the tyre.
It apparently behaves “like a natural sponge”, and is designed to stiffen in dry conditions and soften when wet “to deliver excellent driving performance and aquaplaning resistance”.
Also at the Geneva show, Goodyear showed off a more conventional tyre, called Intelligrip, that uses a number of new technologies to enhance performance and wear.
Like the Eagle-360, the Intelligrip has sensors to assess the condition of the tyre, as well as road and weather conditions.
Under this system, the autonomous vehicle will adjust its speed to suit road conditions.
The company says it is working with a number of vehicle manufacturers to adapt this technology to the needs, thus enhancing connectivity with stability, braking and suspension systems.
According to a recent study from Navigant Research, 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles are expected to be sold annually around the world by 2035.
Looking at the present view of self-driving vehicles, the JD Power 2015 US Tech Choice Study shows that consumers are most concerned with ensuring safety through technology in autonomous cars.
Goodyear’s Eagle-360 shows the manufacturer’s vision for how tyres might play a part in delivering greater safety assurance, therefore opening up increased markets for autonomous vehicles.
“By steadily reducing the driver interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tyres will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road,” said Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer.
“Goodyear’s concept tyres play a dual role in the future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and as testbeds for next-generation technologies.”