Goodyear's Sphere Design for Self-Driving Car Tires Is Stupefying—And Totally Genius
Sometimes, you hear about a futuristic concept that just makes you laugh—until you learn more about it and realize how utterly genius it is. Well, go ahead and laugh at Goodyear's concept for autonomous-car tires: they're spherical. Now keep reading, and get ready to have your mind blown.
Floating On Rubber Balls
Here's the gist: Goodyear's Eagle-360 tires are 3D-printed spheres that are designed to give autonomous vehicles 360 degrees of maneuverability. But wait, you might be asking—how do they attach to the car and still provide full range of motion? Oh, just levitation. The car itself would float on all four spheres via magnetic levitation, or MagLev, the same technology currently being used in the world's fastest trains. The magnetic force would also be responsible for braking, accelerating, and overall maneuvering. Talk about a smooth ride!
There's also an innovative element in the tread. According to a press release, the tread "mimics the pattern of brain coral and behaves like a natural sponge – designed to stiffen in dry conditions and soften when wet to deliver excellent driving performance and aquaplaning resistance." A texture-adjusting rubber ball that looks like a brain and relies on levitation. Got it.
The idea of spherical tires may sound like it's out of left field, but it's actually nothing new. Engineers have wanted to put cars on balls for a long time because they would let a car move in any direction. Think about it: parallel parking and three-point turns would be a thing of the past if you could roll sideways and diagonally. Better still, a car could easily recover from a skid by pointing the spherical tires in four directions.
When you think of it that way, why haven't we been using spheres all along? Because they take a lot of control—the kind of control humans just don't have. But computers do. Spherical tires and autonomous vehicles are a match made in heaven. The tires give the cars the kind of freedom we'd want in a computer-controlled vehicle, and the cars exert safe and precise control over the tires. Isn't the future great?