Flying cars, though still very much science fiction, could one day disrupt Goodyear's tire business. If flying cars ever take over the roadways — and skyways — Goodyear would want a chunk of that market.
The company has designed an airless tire, called the Goodyear Aero, which would double as a propeller. The Aero tires would have bladed spokes that act as a fan allowing the wheels to flip upward and help propel a car into the air.
Goodyear's flying tire is currently just a conceptual design. Chris Helsel, Goodyear's chief technology officer, said the design is meant to spark discussion about transportation options for the future.
"With mobility companies looking to the sky for the answer to the challenges of urban transport and congestion, our work on advanced tire architectures and materials led us to imagine a wheel that could serve both as a traditional tire on the road and as a propulsion system in the sky," Helsel said.
Aviation experts doubt that the propeller-tire hybrid could ever make it off the ground. It would be tough for the wheels to satisfy the car's needs for breaking on the ground and withstand the high rotational speeds needed to lift the car into the air, Daniel Codd, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of San Diego, told CNN Business.
But some parts of the Aero tire design are similar to technology that is already in cars today. For example, Aero tires would have a combination of optical sensing and artificial intelligence to monitor the condition of the tires and communicate with other cars and infrastructure. Some cars today have the ability to communicate to one another to help avoid accidents. And some cars have air-pressure sensors in tires to inform drivers of low pressure or blowouts.
Goodyear unveiled the design at the Geneva Motor Show. The company has a history of revealing its moonshot ideas at the show. In 2016, Goodyear released designs for spherical tires that would allow cars to move in any direction. It unveiled plans for moss-filled tires to strip carbon dioxide from the air at the 2018 show.