It takes a visionary with a truly creative mind to look at the world of tomorrow's tomorrow and see the challenges humanity will face. Moreover, it takes a special person to peer into the future and not only see hope, but see ways in which you can to inspire hope.
That space that connects the present to an imaginable future is the realm where some of the most inspiring and hopeful concept tires are found.
In the short time I've been writing for Rubber & Plastics News, I've been introduced to some of the most innovative mobility solutions. Some are practical, taking shape in the autonomous vehicle era where connected tire innovation is moving ahead light speed. Others are more forward thinking.
I've seen tire designs like Michelin's Vision that rely on sustainable and renewable sources. Tires like Goodyear's Oxygene that clean the air as they rotate along urban and rural roadways, and tires intended to take us places they never have before.
Goodyear's newest concept tire, Aero, is one of the latter.
A non-pneumatic tire designed for passenger cars of the future, Aero envisions a mobility landscape that isn't limited by the laws of gravity. Its structural design, a spoked concept reminiscent of Michelin's Tweel tire, also borrows from the laws of aerodynamics, envisioning fitments on vehicles that serve not only as cars, but drones that carry passengers to new heights.
"For over 120 years Goodyear has obsessively pursued innovations and inventions, partnering with the pioneers driving change and discovery in transport," Chris Helsel, Goodyear chief technology officer, said in a statement. "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."
The Akron-based tire maker explained that the Aero concept tire is built on a multimodal tilt-rotor design. The orientation of the tire determines the role it plays in the transport of the moment.
"It would serve," Goodyear said in a news release, "as a drive train to transfer and absorb forces to and from the road in a traditional orientation and an aircraft propulsion system to provide lift in another orientation. ... The concept's spokes would provide support to carry the weight of the vehicle and act as fan blades to provide lift when the tire is tilted."
Although it never specified what materials Aero is made from, Goodyear explained that the tire structure and spokes are strong enough to dampen shocks on the roadway and rotate at high speeds to help provide lift.
Aero's design also relies on frictionless magnetic propulsion as well as connected and artificial intelligence technologies, allowing it respond to road conditions and other vehicles in real-time.
Aero, Goodyear said, "would use light-based fiber optic sensors to monitor road conditions, tire wear and the structural integrity of the tire itself."
While some may find the ingenuity of the tire and vision of future mobility inspiring or even creative, comments left on Goodyear's YouTube video have been more critical.
"The video is cool and all but the usefulness of this concept seems questionable. Seems like if at all, this would be more useful for small drones," one commenter going by the name "Box" said.