The next big change for tires will be the way they’re shaped. Inspired by nature and infused with magnetic-levitation, Goodyear recently unveiled a concept tire purposed for self-driving cars called the “Eagle-360”.
Why place a car on four spheres in the first place? According to Goodyear, the 3D-printed tires will have a bigger contact patch with the ground, giving a vehicle greater control. The design allows the tires to throw water away via centrifugal force. Best of all, these spherical tires can be basically omni-directional.
The tires we use move to the right or left in order to make a vehicle move in a particular direction. Modern automobiles don’t move sideways based on the direction they’re pointed towards. You have to move backwards or forwards to go left or right. A vehicle’s restricted range of motion means you have to parallel park the long way, rather than simply pull up beside a vacated spot and slide the car to the right.
Spherical tires are very appealing. Goodyear created a beautiful video where you can see the tires in action. You’ll see the concept car with its rounded tires surpass a bus without altering the direction of the vehicle.
This begs the question: how do you fasten a ball to an automobile without restricting its range of motion? Simple. You don’t. The Eagle-360 from Goodyear uses MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) to suspend the car over the tires using a magnetic field. As such, the automobile can slide into tight spots very easily.
The Eagle 360 is comprised of ultra-absorbent rubber, which can soften up on slippery roads or solidify in dry conditions, which helps with traction. To allow the tires to conform to the environment, sensors are embedded into the tires’ rubber to track road conditions.
The spherical tires are only an idea at this point. Goodyear hasn’t actually come out and said the Eagle-360 is in development. Keeping the tires’ spherical design in mind, constructing such a thing would constitute a complete overhaul of the way cars are developed. Because of that, you shouldn’t expect to see spherical tires on vehicles in the immediate future.