Maintenance-free tyres by end of decade: Goodyear tests airless tyres on self-driving shuttle
It is, says Goodyear Tire & Rubber, an industry first – a local transportation authority in the USA is field-testing the non-pneumatic tyre and wheel assembly the tyre maker developed for autonomous urban vehicles. The lessons learned will contribute towards the further development of maintenance-free tyres.
The airless tyres are plying the road with Florida-based mass transit operator Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Current field testing follows three years of joint evaluation by Goodyear and Local Motors at Goodyear facilities and other locations, during which the partners examined the performance characteristics of an Olli shuttle fitted with non-pneumatic tyres, such as load, speed and durability.
Co-created by vehicle developer and manufacturer Local Motors and unveiled in 2016, Olli is a 3D-printed, autonomous electric urban shuttle. Goodyear commenced initial on-road tests of its non-pneumatic tyre in 2019 as part of a growing relationship with Local Motors. The tyre maker states that while this testing phase “will reveal more about non-pneumatic tyres,” it is confident that “airless tyres may offer sustainable, maintenance-free and longer-lasting options.”
Goodyear considers the urban transportation environment to provide an “ideal testing scenario” for the alternative tyre architecture, given its lower speed and less variable travel paths. Together with Local Motors, it will gather experiential data from the JTA, looking for viewpoints on ride comfort, noise and other variables.
An important milestone
“As mobility evolves, we feel that tyres can transform the way we move and alternative airless architectures are ideal, particularly in the emerging autonomous transportation environment,” says Michael Rachita, Goodyear’s senior programme manager, non-pneumatic tyres. “This is an important milestone as we look to advance mobility today and as we look to introduce the first completely sustainable and maintenance-free tyres by the end of the decade.”
“The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is proud to integrate this innovative and sustainable technology into our Autonomous Vehicle Test & Learn programme as we develop the future of mobility through the Ultimate Urban Circulator,” adds Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., JTA chief executive officer. “This collaboration is another example of how Jacksonville is leading the public transportation industry in developing AV mobility solutions.”
JTA operates autonomous vehicles through a public-private partnership with mobility firm Beep. “Testing with best-in-class software and technology partners is enabling the JTA to lead globally in readiness for the use of autonomous platform in an urban environment. We are excited for the opportunity to extend the Test & Learn programme with the JTA, Goodyear and Local Motors to prove out the use of other innovations such as the Goodyear airless tyres, as this will only further transform transportation as we know it,” said Joe Moye, chief executive officer of Beep.
“Autonomous vehicles, like Olli, need to decrease maintenance costs and perform reliably,” said Vikrant Aggarwal, president of Local Motors. “Goodyear’s non-pneumatic tyres are positioned to give maintenance teams less to worry about while giving passengers a quiet, consistent ride. Non-pneumatic tyres may just be the industry standard in the coming years.”