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Goodyear Designs Levitating Concept Tire for Self-Driving Cars

The Eagle-360 tire could grip the road better, allow for precision movements and maximize tire lifespan, according to Goodyear.

Goodyear’s new tire looks and acts like BB-8 from Star Wars — how’s that for futuristic?

At the beginning of March, the company unveiled a spherical concept tire at the Geneva International Motor Show. Through magnetic levitation — the same technology that makes Japan’s high-speed trains possible — the Eagle-360 tires are designed to make no actual contact with the car itself, and can change direction without the car’s body turning in that direction.

That means that instead of direct physical manipulation, car computers would need to connect with the tires in order to coordinate them and control direction.

But that’s no problem for Goodyear, because the tires are designed for self-driving cars anyway.

“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,” Goodyear Chief Technical Officer Joseph Zekoski said in a statement. “Goodyear’s concept tires play a dual role in that future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and testbeds for next-generation technologies.”

A video from the company, below, paints a picture of the future where cars would use the tires to optimize tire performance. Because the tires would have tread covering their entire surface and could move independent of the vehicle, the car could control which parts of the tires got used. That would, theoretically, extend the life of the tire because tread wear could be spread out across a larger surface than today’s tires.

The company also envisioned some tweaks to the material and manufacturing process. Foam in the tire could allow it to retain traction when traveling through water, while 3-D printing could allow for custom designs.

The independent movement of the tires would also make it possible for cars to move in ways they can’t with traditional tires. Paired with software designed to drive the car with precision, cars could park much closer to each other in parking lots, allowing for more cars to fit into lots without expanding a lot's size.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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