When is a wheel not round? When it is a sphere, of course

When is a wheel not round? When it is a sphere, of course

You’ve heard the saying before; probably said it a thousand times yourself. You can’t reinvent the wheel.

Well, it turns out, maybe you can. Goodyear has, or at least it has a conceptual idea of what the reinvented wheel will look like.

Earlier this month, at the Geneva International Auto Show, Goodyear presented its vision of what the round wheel will look like in the future – and it turns out it will look a lot like BB8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Eagle-360 is a concept wheel that is not round, but rather spherical in shape. Goodyear says it is a possible option for autonomous vehicles of the future, allowing the vehicle to move in any direction easily in what would be the ultimate maneuverability.

Goodyear Eagle-360 concept tire

The concept wheel in Geneva was a 3-D printed tire.

“By steadily reducing the driver interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tires will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road,” says Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear's senior vice president and chief technical officer. “Goodyear's concept tires play a dual role in the future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and as testbeds for next-generation technologies.”

The tire can move in all directions and offers a smooth ride through its fluid movements. Active technology allows the tire to move as needed to reduce sliding from potential hazards such as black ice or sudden obstacles, so it contributes to safety, Goodyear says.

(A little BB8 video for all the Star Wars: The Force Awakens fans)

As Goodyear envisions it, the Eagle-360 would include no axle. Instead, the wheel would be attached to the car with magnetic levitation.

No, really. The car will levitate above the wheels, and this is no Vegas magic trick.

The tire is suspended from the car by magnetic fields, similar to magnetic levitation trains, which increases passenger comfort and reduces noise.

“Though this is purely a concept tire, it showcases some of Goodyear's best innovative thinking and how the needs of future drivers can be addressed. Based on our own recent research, we know that young drivers are looking for smart and sustainable cars to be part of future mobility and that reliability and safety are key for them. We believe the Eagle-360 concept tire could deliver a safe and sustainable solution for our end consumer who is likely to drive or ride in autonomous cars in the future,” said Jean-Claude Kihn, President of Goodyear EMEA. “We also hope it serves as inspiration for the automotive industry as we continue to find solutions for the future, together.”

Sensors keep the Eagle-360 connected to the vehicle and gather data on road conditions, weather and other vehicles around it to further improve safety. Additionally, the sensors can actively manage the tire’s tread wear to extend mileage.

Finally, the tread itself is printed by a 3-D printer, allowing tread customization based on region.

At long last, someone has felt it necessary to reinvent the wheel. And it turns out, it may be a great idea.

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