As autonomous cars move closer to the showroom, it's clear that they'll be more than just conventional vehicles minus the driver. It means rethinking every major system down to the tires. At the 86th Geneva International Motor show, Goodyear has taken the wraps off two concept tires designed for the autonomous cars of tomorrow – including a spherical tire that allow cars to drive sideways and one that can sense road conditions and adapt to them.
New technologies present new problems – and new opportunities. This is particularly true of something as complicated as an autonomous car, which is as much a robot as it is a form of transportation. New sensors, algorithms, and control systems need developing, and this also opens the door for some lateral thinking.
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In this vein, Goodyear's two new concepts start with the need to create new tires suitable for autonomous cars ... and then run with it.
The first concept is the Eagle-360. This is a spherical tire that's linked to the car by magnetic levitation rather than axles, so it can rotate on any axis in any direction. This makes the car ultra-maneuverable and could pave the way for smaller carparks and more efficient use of road space because the Eagle-360 allows the car to move sideways.
In addition, the Eagle-360 has embedded sensors that allow the tires to assess the local environment and communicate with other vehicles or the local traffic control system. The tire can also monitor its treads and tire pressure and rotate itself for more even wear and longer mileage.
Even the tread is advanced, with a 3D-printed biomimetic design that imitates the pattern of brain coral. According to Goodyear, this allows the tread to act like a natural sponge , so it stiffens in dry conditions and softens in the wet to reduce aquaplaning and improve handling.
Meanwhile, the Intelligrip is a more realistic concept sporting idea that is already under consideration by car manufacturers. Looking more like a conventional tire, it communicates with the autonomous vehicle's control system and assesses road surface and weather conditions using advanced sensors. It also monitors the wear on the tire and vehicle as well as tire pressure and temperature.
The Intelligrip is designed to work in conjunction with anti-collision systems, automatically detect and adapt to road conditions, and adjust the stopping distance, cornering, and stability.
Goodyear says that it's already working with car manufacturers on how to move some of Intelligrip's technology into the real world by enhancing features like Electronic Stability Control Systems, Brake Control Systems, and Suspension Control 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 video below introduces the Goodyear Eagle-360.