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Goodyear Unveils Spherical Tire Concept

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On: Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 4:07PM | By: Carl Malek

Goodyear Unveils Spherical Tire Concept

With all the attention that electric vehicles, driverless cars, and even advanced hybrids get in both the press and the automotive circuit, it's easy to forget about the vehicle's tires, which often don't get as much of the glory, especially on modern cars. Part of this is because the basic shape of a tire has changed very little over the years, despite advancements in rubber and tread technology; however, a new tire concept from Goodyear will completely redefine what we perceive as a tire, while also introducing the world to an all-new driving experience.

Prior to this unveiling, the notion of spherical tires existed only in the realm of science fiction; the 2004 movieI, Robot featured a futuristic 2035 model-year Audi driven by Will Smith. That particular car sported spherical tires, an effect achieved through computer imaging and Hollywood trickery. Goodyear's concept (known formally as the Eagle-360 tire) brings this novel idea closer to reality, thanks to a special high-tech wheel assembly that is actually fully encased in the tire. The theoretical car using this technology would eschew traditional axle technology and actually hover above the four orb-shaped tires without making physical contact with them in the process.

This hovering effect would be achieved by suspending the tires through an electromagnetic force similar to the technology that makes maglev trains hover. Goodyear claims the exotic arrangement will bring several benefits to drivers; the lack of physical contact between the car and the tires helps to reduce road noise as well as enhancing ride quality for drivers. I think the latter benefit would be appreciated by drivers in states that experience rapid temperature shifts (a key factor in the formation of potholes), especially in my home state of Michigan where ride quality can radically change from one stretch of road to the next. The spherical shape also provides a larger contact patch and allows the tires to turn or rotate in any direction instantaneously. This effect is enhanced during evasive maneuvers or changing lanes when the elimination of bodyroll would help make the car more stable since the nose would not be required to change direction.

The wheels would also help improve other aspects of the overall driving experience, including parking, with equipped cars being able to squeeze into tighter parking spaces. Goodyear claims that this particular trait would allow parking lots to fit more cars than existing lots. In addition to these advanced abilities, the tires feature a whole host of safety engineering, including onboard sensors that can change the direction of rotation when it senses that a particular "equator" of the tread is running low. The tires also feature a special webbing that softens when the tires are exposed to moisture; this helps create channels for water to pass through while also stiffening for better road-holding characteristics when the system senses that the roads are dry.

All of this does sound very impressive, but it is important to remember that the system is still mainly a concept at this point. Goodyear has not said how close to production the exotic tire system is. Expect the company to further tweak and refine the technology over the next several years with a production version to be previewed at a future auto show or technology expo. Meanwhile, Goodyear has released a brief video of the tires in action:


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