A highlight at last week’s Geneva International Motor Show was Goodyear’s Aero concept – a two-in-one tire designed for autonomous, flying cars. The tire maker says that the concept would work both as a tire for driving on the road and a ‘propeller’ for flying through the sky.
Chris Helsel, chief technology officer at Goodyear, said, “For over 120 years Goodyear has obsessively pursued innovations and inventions, partnering with the pioneers driving change and discovery in transport.
“With mobility companies looking to the sky for the answer to the challenges of urban transport and congestion, our work on advanced tire architectures and materials led us to imagine a wheel that could serve both as a traditional tire on the road and as a propulsion system in the sky.”
The Aero concept incorporates several unique features.
As a multimodal tilt-rotor concept, it would serve as a drivetrain to transfer and absorb forces to and from the road in a traditional orientation and an aircraft propulsion system to provide lift in another orientation. The Aero would give future commuters the freedom to move seamlessly from the road to the sky on capable vehicles.
Special spokes provide support to carry the weight of the vehicle and act as fan blades to give lift when the tire is tilted. Its non-pneumatic structure is flexible enough to dampen shocks when driving on the road, and strong enough to rotate at the high speeds necessary for the rotors to create vertical lift.
The Aero concept would use magnetic force to provide frictionless propulsion. This would enable the high rotating speeds required to drive the vehicle on the ground and, when the wheel is tilted, lift a vehicle into the air and propel it forward.
Its light-based, fiber optic sensors monitor road conditions, tire wear and the structural integrity of the tire itself.
Goodyear’s concept also features an embedded AI processor that combines information from the tire’s sensors with data from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
The AI processor analyzes these streams of data to recommend a course of action – enabling a vehicle to adapt to a flying or driving mode – and identify and resolve potential tire-related issues before they happen.
Some of the Aero’s features – such as its non-pneumatic structure and intelligent tire capabilities – are being developed by Goodyear today, while others could become the basis for new ideas and potentially future products.