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Geneva: Goodyear’s crazy concept tire goes high tech

It has a bionic skin — very much like human skin — and it can sense the road and the outside environment. It is also a tire that is connected to the traffic network, other vehicles and the world around it — helping it decide what to do next.

Oh yes, the future looks crazy.

Goodyear unveiled the latest iteration of its revolutionary concept tire, the Eagle 360, at the Geneva International Motor Show this week. And it was a bit of a showstopper.

Goodyear’s long-term vision is for “smart, connected tires” — the kind of tire that works for driverless vehicles on busy urban roads.

The Eagle 360 Urban is a 3-D printed sphere and the first concept tire to be powered by artificial intelligence. It is able to “sense, decide, transform and interact.”

Incredible addition of tech builds on last year’s Eagle 360

According to Goodyear Europe, Middle East and Africa president, Jean-Claude Kihn: “A revolution will take place at the intersection of autonomy, mobility and connectivity. As this unfolds, tire technology will be even more important than it is today. To safely navigate their surroundings, the autonomous vehicles of the future will need to learn to cope with the millions of possible unknowns we face in everyday driving scenarios. To do so they will need access to data and the ability to learn and adapt.”

Goodyear is pushing the boundaries with this tire, which builds on last year’s revelation of a completely spherical tire, by adding artificial intelligence to give the Eagle 360 Urban a “brain,” bionic skin and morphing tread.

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The plan? For the tire to become part of the vehicle’s “nervous system” and the connected world of the “Internet of Things”. According to Goodyear: “That way, it is ready to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances, as well as the evolving needs of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) for fleets and their users.”

The bionic skin has a sensor network that allows the concept tire to check its own status and gather information on its environment, including the road surface. Via connectivity with other vehicles as well as infrastructure, traffic and mobility management systems, the Eagle 360 Urban also captures information on its surroundings in real-time.

Here’s how the tech will change our lives

Made of super-elastic polymer, the tire’s bionic skin has a flexibility similar to that of human skin, allowing it to expand and contract. This outer layer covers a foam-like material that is strong enough to remain flexible despite the weight of a vehicle. Thanks to this flexibility, actuator elements beneath the tire’s surface, which are components that change shape with an electrical input, working like human muscles, can re-shape the individual sections of the tire’s tread design, adding ‘dimples’ for wet conditions or smoothing the tread for dry conditions. A new tread with a safer contact patch is thus deployed.

Using this morphing tread, the Eagle 360 Urban transforms and adapts to changing road and weather conditions. The concept tire can then interact to share the information it has captured, the related action and its success with other vehicles and all of the elements making up the Internet of Things.

When the tire’s bionic skin is damaged, the sensors in the tread can locate the puncture. The tire then rotates to create a different contact patch. This reduces pressure on the puncture and allows a self-healing process to start.

It’s amazing technology and it’s turning heads in Geneva. If and when it becomes a reality, the price of a new set of tires looks set to skyrocket.

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