The Goodyear Eagle-360 tire is Goodyear’s attempt at recreating the wheel. Instead of a boring old circular shape that has been around for thousands of years, they’re looking at a spherical tire for the purposes of autonomous vehicles of the future.
The tire would be connected to the car via magnetic levitation, which would suspend the tire from the entire vehicle. If you look at from the perspective of the ground, rather the entire vehicle itself would be levitating on these spherical wheels. The tire concept would have unique tread that would be effective in varying road conditions. Goodyear calls it, biomimicry, where it mimics designs found throughout nature. One example is the sponge like groove design which would soften when wet, allowing for deeper grooves for hydroplaning resistance. The groove would also stiffen or soften depending on the moisture, creating better grip during wet conditions and better handling during dry conditions. This tire concept would also provide a larger, circular contact patch opposed to a normal tire that has a rectangular contact patch.
Having a spherical tire would also mean a different approach to vehicle handling. Vehicle dynamics would be far improved because of the wheel’s ability to rotate in any direction. A slalom test, as seen in the video, can be handled without reorienting the vehicle.
This is all of course very conceptual, and like most concepts it is devoid of actual real world limitations such as producibility, engineering feasibility, and just the sheer economics behind recreating the wheel. Though we can’t blame Goodyear to be forward thinking. You have us intrigued. Let’s see if this can become more science and less science fiction.