Goodyear Unveils a Concept Tire for Flying Cars

AERO tire would work as a wheel on the ground and a propeller in the air.

Goodyear unveiled its AERO concept tire for flying cars at the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland. The tire would convert into a propeller for flying.

The AERO is a tilt-rotor tire that facilitates a seamless transition from ground to air travel. Instead of a rigid wheel, the tire features fanlike spokes.

“The individual blades absorb shocks while driving on the road but also act as robust rotors to create vertical lift when the tire is tilted,” said Daniel Hinque, an engineer at Goodyear who helped develop the tire.

The solid airless tire is flexible enough to dampen bumps in the road while being strong enough for the high-speed rotation needed for the rotors to create vertical lift. That rotation would be achieved by using magnetic force to generate frictionless propulsion.

The AERO is equipped with light-based fiber-optic sensors to monitor road conditions, tire wear and structural integrity. It would use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to combine and analyze sensor information and communications from other cars and nearby infrastructure.

The AI processor would then recommend a course of action—including when to switch between flying or driving mode—and anticipate, identify and resolve potential tire issues before they become a danger.

“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,” said a company news release.

Goodyear’s AERO tire for flying cars

But the AERO has some skeptics. According to Pat Anderson, director of the Eagle Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, while combining two components in one might reduce the number of parts, they typically result in compromises that lower performance.

“You’ve seen cars that are supposed to turn into boats, but it’s not a good boat or a good car,” Anderson said. He added that the downwash from the fast-spinning tire in flight mode might be dangerous to people or objects below the car and cause excessive noise.

Ella Atkins, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, is reminded of the solid rubber tires used by the first automobiles.

“How safe and efficient can a car be with Model T tires in car mode even with 21st century sensors and electronics?” she asked.

While the AERO is still just a concept, technologies like a non-pneumatic structure and intelligent tire capabilities are already in development. Goodyear seems to sense the growing shift from conventional ground-based cars to flying ones and is aiming to be an innovator in that growing market.

Read more about airborne car technologies at Flying Cars: Not Just Pie in the Sky.