Goodyear Eagle 360 Urban: This morphing golf ball could point to the future of tyres

The Geneva Motor Show might be packed with cars, but at this year’s event, tyre manufacturers such as Falken and Goodyear revealed some interesting new technology. Falken showed two types of tyres: one that aims to reduce fuel consumption, and another that’s designed to reduce the noise when cars drive over bumps. And Goodyear? Well, Goodyear unveiled a futuristic-looking rubber golf ball it thinks will be the future of tyres.

Called the Goodyear Eagle 360 Urban, the new tyre is spherical and builds upon the design of the concept Goodyear unveiled last year, the Eagle 360. “It’s maybe a more advanced next-generation concept that focuses on car-sharing applications in the urban environment. One of the differences with last year is that the outer shape of the tyre is different,” Etienne Besnoin of Goodyear tells me.

Adaptive tread

Like last year’s tyre, it will be powered by an as-yet-undiscovered method of propulsion that will allow cars to move quickly in whichever direction the driver chooses. The new Eagle 360 would also feature a range of sensors like its predecessor, so it can feed exact information about the road to a car’s autonomous systems.

However, unlike last year’s tyre – which featured a tread pattern based on coral – the Eagle 360 Urban features an interesting, reactive surface. Rather than using a traditional tread, the Eagle 360 Urban is made of hard foam but supported by a super-elastic polymer that an react to electricity like a muscle.goodyear_2

In this way, Goodyear imagines a tyre that can reshape individual sections of the tyre’s tread – so you can have dimples for wet weather, and then smooth, almost slick tread for dryer conditions. “The tyre has the ability to morph and transform based on the road condition that it senses,” Besnoin tells me. “And it has an artificial-intelligence unit that will tell it the road conditions based on input from the tyre itself, but also from other tyres and other vehicles – basically the Internet of Things.”

When combined with machine learning, connected data and sensors that provide quick up-to-the-minute information, you have a tyre that can predict and adapt to the situations – making it as safe as possible in any given situation.

The future of tyres? 

The Goodyear Eagle 360 Urban isn’t the sort of tyre you’ll be fitting onto your family saloon just yet, but the ideas demonstrated in it might appear sooner than you think. In the ongoing push for safety and efficiency, every aspect of the cars we drive is going to be looked at – from the aerodynamics to the energy consumption of the infotainment system.

Tyres will play a crucial role in the development of new vehicles too, and it’s possible technology like that demonstrated in the 360 Urban will end up being used on vehicles of the future.

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