Michelin’s driverless tyre concept looks like a loofah

Fully autonomous technology is just around the corner, and it’s going to change how cars are designed forever. On the outside they’ll look pretty similar, but on the inside they’ll have no steering wheels or pedals, and will be more like a living room than a cockpit. However, driverless cars will still need wheels and tyres  – and Michelin’s latest concept imagines what they could look like.

Loofahs. They’ll look like loofahs basically.

Michelin’s new wheel concept for driverless cars looks like something you’d scrub yourself with – but every aspect of its appearance is a result of the new demands posed by autonomous vehicles.  

Things such as grip and traction are required mainly for driving pleasure, but autonomous cars won’t need those qualities as a priority. That means things like longevity, comfort and road noise will be more important – and these are the things Michelin’s new wheels are targeting.

“As vehicles become more automated, the requirements for handling and driving pleasure are greatly diminished,” said Terry Gettys, Michelin’s executive VP for research and development, to The Verge.

“In fact the passengers, when they turn over the driving to the car, they don’t even care about the handling feel. And as such, there’s going to be a huge shift in customer expectations toward comfort and noise.”


“They’ll want to enter the vehicle like a cocoon and have a very pleasurable experience getting to their destination, but that pleasure coming from using their telephone, their PC, discussing, and being totally oblivious to the distractions outside,” he added.

Like the concept tyre Goodyear’s unveiled last year, Michelin’s new tyres look organic. And on top of reducing road noise and weight, their loofah-like structure is partly down to the way Michelin imagines they’ll be made.goodyear_360_eagle_1

Michelin says the tyres will be almost completely recycled organic matter, and like apparently everything else in the future, they’ll be 3D-printed. In fact, a video of Michelin’s concept suggests people will be able to retrospectively print treads to their tyres – for driving in snow for, example.

As you’d expect, Michelin has designed a product it simply can’t make right now  – as it doesn’t have the tools, the methods or the materials. However, it’s still interesting to see the trends automotive companies are looking at.

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