The way we drive is changing. Globally, trends like urbanization, carpooling, and eventually, autonomous vehicles will mean that the demands we place on our vehicles will change, too. To meet this challenge, the design and function of every vehicular part must be re-imagined to fit these needs, and this includes the tire.
Goodyear is a world-leading supplier of tires for cars as well as every type of commercial, industrial and agricultural vehicle. The US manufacturer has built its reputation by leading the development of tire technology since the late 19th century. Here in the 21st century, it is still applying cutting-edge tech, including artificial intelligence (AI) to stay ahead of the competition.
The reasoning here is that, as cars become more electric and automated and less reliant on moving parts, the seemingly low-tech tire is an element where innovation can constantly bring benefits. It is one of the increasingly-few parts that still need routine maintenance and regular replacement. In an ideal world, it is also one of the few external parts that should come into contact with any physical object. This means it has access to a virtual “sensory faculty” – the sense of touch.
Goodyear CTO Chris Helsel explained to me that this was the jumping-off point, several years ago now, for a rethink of how the tire could become a more "intelligent" component – performing its duty more efficiently, while also helping to build a better understanding of what happens when the rubber meets the road.
He said, “We started thinking about how we can make the tires a more permanent structure for a vehicle through its life - and that was kind of the genesis behind this concept of the ReCharge.”
The concept tire – initially scheduled to be unveiled to the world at the canceled Geneva International Motor Show in March – uses AI to monitor and learn from driver behavior. Over its lifetime, it dispenses a synthetic material inspired by the carbon structure of spider silk, to alter the composition of the tire, adapting it to suit the way the vehicle is driven.