Remember the college project several years ago when the students were working on a motorcycle with ball wheels? It's hard to figure out how that could work, mounting a ball wheel or tire in a vehicle of any sort is the first problem, then driving it and steering it just adds to the fun, but Goodyear has been thinking along those same lines and they just introduced a concept tire at the Geneva International Motor Show called the Eagle-360 and if those students could order a set they would have exactly what they need.
Goodyear wasn't thinking about motorcycles, though, they're aiming at the oncoming future of autonomous vehicles and figured spherical tires are just what the doctor ordered. These are definitely not your father's boring old rubber tires, these are 3D printed to begin and the tread pattern uses biomimicry inspired by the surface of brain coral with multidirectional blocks and grooves. They are mounted on the vehicle using magnetic levitation, like maglev trains and can move the vehicle in any direction and change their orientation to maximize tread wear. They can park a vehicle in limited space by just rolling sideways and they can enhance safety by instantly adjusting their roll orientation if a slide occurs in slippery conditions.
Goodyear uses a lot of descriptive terminology (see the press release below) when talking about this tire such as innovative, creative, sustainable and on and on, but I think the major intention is to show they're not afraid to try new ideas, even in the world of the ubiquitous rubber tire.
We can speculate on all sorts of other vehicles this tire could be used for, including motorcycles, but I think we need to see them actually produce some first and show them working as intended before we get carried away with the possibilites. Then we can think about that new Harley or Honda with a set of balls. You have to admit, though, it's pretty cool to think about.
Press release follows:
Geneva, Switzerland — After 117 years of making tires, Goodyear today presented a vision of a future tire that looks radically different from tires today —it’s a sphere.
Goodyear unveiled its latest concept tire, Eagle-360, at the Geneva International Motor Show. The spherical, 3-D printed tire highlights Goodyear’s vision for the future and presents an inspiring solution for the long-term future when autonomous driving is expected to be more mainstream.
According to a recent study from Navigant Research, 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles are expected to be sold annually around the world by 2035, for example. According to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study, consumers are most concerned with ensuring safety through technology in autonomous cars.
“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,” said Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer. “Goodyear’s concept tires 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.”
Spherical shape for ultimate maneuverability and safety
The unique shape of the Goodyear Eagle-360 could contribute to safety and maneuverability to match the demands of autonomous mobility.The spherical shape of the tire is key to delivering ultimate maneuverability. The multi-orientation tires move in all directions, contributing to passenger safety. Active technology allows the tire to move as needed to reduce sliding from potential hazards, such as black ice or sudden obstacles, so it contributes to staying on a safe path.
In addition, the spherical shape of the Goodyear Eagle-360 provides a smooth ride by creating a fluid, lateral movement. This helps the car to overtake an obstacle without changing its driving direction.
Finally, because 360 degree turns are possible with this tire, it could tackle anticipated parking constrictions of the future, as less space will be needed for cars fitted with spherical tires to pull into parking spots. Assuming public parking areas play the same role, this could significantly increase the capacity of public parking areas without increasing their size.
Connected via magnetic levitation
To connect with the body of the car, the Goodyear Eagle-360 concept tire relies on magnetic levitation. The tire is suspended from the car by magnetic fields, similar to magnetic levitation trains, which increases passenger comfort and reduces noise.
“Though this is purely a concept tire, it showcases some of Goodyear’s best innovative thinking and how the needs of future drivers can be addressed. Based on our own recent research, we know that young drivers are looking for smart and sustainable cars to be part of future mobility and that reliability and safety are key for them.4 We believe the Eagle-360 concept tire could deliver a safe and sustainable solution for our end consumer who is likely to drive or ride in autonomous cars in the future,” said Jean-Claude Kihn, President of Goodyear EMEA.. “We also hope it serves as inspiration for the automotive industry as we continue to find solutions for the future, together.”
Sensors ensure connectivity with car and increase safety
Goodyear imagined another feature, connectivity, to optimize driving conditions in autonomous vehicles, which is brought to life in three features. First, sensors inside the Eagle-360 concept tire register the road conditions, including weather and road surface conditions, and communicate this information to the car as well as to other vehicles to enhance safety. Secondly, leveraging Goodyear’s tread wear and pressure monitoring technology, sensors in the Eagle-360 register and regulate the wear of the tire to extend mileage. Finally, because the tread is produced by a 3-D printer, customizing the tire based on the region where the driver lives is a new possibility.
Biomimicry – inspired by nature
Elements of the Eagle-360 design showcase biomimicry, which is the imitation of nature, a principle Goodyear often uses in its designs. The tread mimics the pattern of brain coral, and its multidirectional blocks and grooves help to secure a safe contact patch. The groove bottom has the same elements as a natural sponge, which stiffens when dry yet softens when wet to deliver adequate driving performance and aquaplaning resistance. This texture also absorbs water on the road and ejects water from the tire footprint through centrifugal force to reduce the risk of aquaplaning.