The Aero concept is a cool wheel, trick propeller and overworked tire.
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Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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Watch this: Goodyear's Aero tire is for flying self-driving cars
The Goodyear Aero concept unveiled at the 2019 Geneva auto show functions as a narrow, non-pneumatic tire when on the ground, then acts as a propeller when rotated and spun up to high RPM in a tilt-rotor application. Given the amount of recent hype around autonomous flying cars, its a concept worth looking at.
The most clever part of Aero is how the wheel's "spokes" are also the propeller's blades. Pitched, curved and manufactured precisely, they would seem to save a lot of space, expense, and articulation headaches on a flying car.
The rubber that wraps around those blades would be solid, rather than an air-filled tire that would deform and disintegrate at aeronautic RPM. But without a pneumatic cushion Goodyear's material scientists will have to pull some all-nighters to formulate a material compliant enough to cushion the ride on ground while also tough enough to protect the critical wheel/propeller structure. I wouldn't want to get aloft only to find out I have a cracked prop blade because I curbed it downtown an hour before.
Goodyear imagines this Aero assembly being spun by magnetic propulsion and controlled by AI, both of which are the sorts of things you just have to say in 2019. But more realistic is their vision that Aero would be monitored by a fiber optic sensor package to make sure it's in perfect condition and performing properly in its two critical missions. That jibes with an exploding trend of smart monitoring technology in the auto business, from Porsche's new Wet Mode that listens for the audio signature of wet pavement, to millimeter wave in-car monitoring tech from Texas Instruments that seeks to revolutionize awareness of who's in the car and their state.
Maybe the most interesting part of these "tires" is that we're talking about the components needed for self-flying cars.