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Car and Driver: Goodyear Dreams of Spherical Tires for Self-Driving Cars

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Goodyear Eagle-360 spherical tire concept

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If you believe the darkest prophecies about the self-driving future, our roads will one day be full of cars without owners, cars without steering wheels, and cars without passengers. Such a radical change in how we use vehicles would almost certainly lead to a radical redesign of the automobile as we know it. The trunk could go in the front, the seats could face the rear, the windows could become massive display screens, and the tires could be replaced with, well, spherical tires. At least that’s the future suggested by the Goodyear Eagle-360, a far-out concept tire shown at the 2016 Geneva auto show that was designed specifically for autonomous vehicles.

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The 3D-printed Eagle-360 features a tread pattern modeled after the texture of brain coral. Seemingly random squiggles of rubber create an omnidirectional design that’s ideal for a tire that can rotate in any direction. The voids of the tread contain a material that mimics natural sponge, softening when wet to soak up water and increase grip. Goodyear also imagines that the tire could roll on specific axes to make use of situation-specific tread features.

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Goodyear Eagle-360 spherical tire concept

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A wide central sipe could spin perpendicular to the direction of travel when roads are dry and parallel to the road when it rains, providing a channel to evacuate standing water from under the tire. Sensors built into the tire would detect road conditions and available friction, relaying that information to the car’s computers so it knows when it’s necessary to travel below the speed limit.

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The creators have contemplated a few of the Everest-sized hurdles that will prevent this idea from ever becoming reality. They propose that the Eagle-360 would be mated to the vehicle using existing magnetic levitation technology, although designers openly admit that the necessary permanent magnets would add thousands of pounds to the vehicle’s weight as the tech exists today. For propulsion, each tire would contain batteries and an electric motor, with recharging made possible by wireless induction. Unused space inside the tire would then be filled with rigid foam rather than pressurized air.

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2016 Geneva Auto Show Full Coverage

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