That is what Goodyear is doing with their concept tire, the 360.
The 360 is intended for autonomous vehicles and is far more than just a tire. It wouldn’t even use air pressure like today’s tire.
Goodyear says the 3D-printed tires will have a larger contact patch with the ground, allowing for more control. The design lets the tires hurl water away via centrifugal force. And one of the best things is that spherical tires can be essentially omnidirectional.
Looking to anticipated parking constrictions of the future, the maneuverability of these would allow more vehicles to fit a densely packed parking lot. The vehicles would be able to turn at 90-degree angles rather than traditional wider turns.
A wide central strip 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.
The Goodyear 360 design would negate any conventional suspension components and create a very comfortable ride, since these tires would be suspended by magnets, similar to a magnetic levitation train. We have a bit of time before this is ready for a passenger car though, as designers openly admit that the necessary permanent magnets would add thousands of pounds to the vehicle’s weight as the tech exists today.
The idea is that these spheres would essentially replace the conventional drivetrain. They propose that the tires would each contain an electric motor and batteries for propulsion, with recharging made possible by wireless induction. Unused space inside the tire would then be filled with rigid foam rather than pressurized air.
Think of the gain in storage capacity. When the motor is contained within the wheel, you no longer need an engine compartment. And if the vehicle is driverless, seating could become much more flexible too. We may find that the minivan of the future is more like your living room than a traditional car.
Audi’s RSQ concept vehicle illustrates how one of these vehicles may look and was used in the movie i-Robot where you can find a few scenes that demonstrate how a vehicle like this may behave on the street.
A very interesting concept. Watch the video below to see Goodyear’s demonstration.