The notion of flying cars is hardly a new one. All the way back in 1842 William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow patented the Henson Aerial Steam Carriage, a monoplane that substituted a steam engine for its equine one. There have been lots of attempts over the years with results both promising, in the safe flights of the 1937 two-seat Waterman Arrowbile; and disappointing, with the 1971 AVE Mizar that fell apart in the sky. But what did Henry Smolinski and Harold Blake expect when crossing a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto?
Though we are reaching critical mass in the limits of our roads and our sanity with unbearable traffic, there’s still not a commercially produced car ready to conquer land and air. Goodyear believes that future is near, which we can only hope is true, and is exploring how it can become a player in the space.
Living In Two Worlds
Already a leader in the tire industry, Goodyear has been making wheels go round since the company’s founding as a tire and rubber company in 1898. But who says a tire can’t be a propeller too? That’s what the engineers at Goodyear thought with their development of the AERO concept, a two-in-one tire designed for autonomous flying cars.
A tire that can roll down the mean streets and also launch a vehicle into the sky is a mind-blowing idea that seems to come right out of a James Bond movie. What the engineers at Goodyear did was pretty much reinvent the wheel. At the very least, they reimagined its potential for mobility.
The AERO tire incorporates several innovative features to make it possible for a ground to flight transition. Its multimodal tilt-rotor design concept allows it to work as a drive train in its traditional vertical orientation, transferring and absorbing forces on the road. Once airborne, the AERO changes angles so its rotation can provide thrust.
A traditional rubber tire filled with air functions to keep a car grounded and gripping the pavement, preventing it from flying off the road, so to speak. Not exactly conducive to defying gravity and taking to the air. The AERO uses a non-pneumatic structure with spokes flexible enough to absorb shocks on the road, yet strong enough to withstand the high-speed rotation for the rotors to gain lift.
Everything To Everyone
Friction is the enemy when it comes to high-speed travel no matter if you’re in the air or on the ground. The AERO uses a frictionless magnetic propulsion system to drive the wheels. This will allow a more efficient on road drive while also allowing for incredibly high rotational speeds necessary to generate enough thrust to get a vehicle off the ground.
The AERO tire is also pretty self-reliant, monitoring the ground, air, and itself so you don’t have to. With optical sensing, it uses light-based, fiber optic sensors to keep an eye on structural integrity and wear as well as road conditions.
If all these features weren’t enough, the AERO is also a very smart computer. An embedded Artificial Intelligence processor collects data from the tire’s sensors and processes it with data from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Using all of this information, the A.I. chip recommends whether driving or flying is the better option and communicates that information so the car can adapt modes. In addition, it will have the ability to identify any tire-related problems and resolve them so you won’t end up waiting for roadside (airside?) assistance, say, for instance, when you’re on the way to the theater and already sweating making the curtain.
I never would’ve believed the topic of tires could get me excited, but the AERO definitely has the “wow” factor. The bummer is that it’s still just a conceptual design and might never make it to market. However, Goodyear says some of the features, such as non-pneumatic structure and intelligent tire capabilities, are being developed right now.
In order to make progressive leaps, you have to imagine how it can be done, and Goodyear is dreaming up some ingenious possibilities for car flight. Whether or not the AERO actually makes it into production, Goodyear plans to drive us into the future.