Flying cars and flying taxis are closer than you think. So how will these airborne vehicles make the transition from land to air? Goodyear thinks it knows, and is showing off the Aero — a tire than will be able to both run vertically as a tire and horizontally as a propeller — at the Geneva International Auto Show this week.
The propeller blades serve a dual purpose; as the necessary support for the weight of the car, and as a source of lift for the car when the driver wishes to go airborne.
“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,” Goodyear Chief Technology Officer Chris Helsel says.
The Aero isn’t an inflatable tire of the type we use today. Instead, Goodyear envisions using new flexible materials it has developed to absorb road shock, but be able to also deal with the added stresses on the tire material as it transitions from the horizontal to the vertical.
The technical term for this is non-pneumatic structure, and is something that is already used in small vehicles. However only recently have tire manufacturers gotten to the point where it can support the much heavier weight of a full-sized vehicle.
Goodyear also says it envisions the tire being used as part of a magnetic propulsion system versus today’s mechanical propulsion systems, and the company also plans to include artificial intelligence within the tire to monitor road conditions and tire wear. This A.I. could also be used for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, something that the auto industry is already working towards thanks to 5G.
While much of this sounds super futuristic, Goodyear is working on many of these technologies right now. The airless tire design and the intelligence within the tire itself are features already in development, and may appear in Goodyear tires in the not-too-distant future. But the company does admit that the Aero is purely conceptual, and may be for awhile.
“Goodyear’s concepts are meant to trigger a debate on the tires and transport technologies for a new mobility ecosystem,” Helsel says.