But one thing generally has gone unchanged on these vehicles — the tires.
Goodyear, however, changed that this week at the Geneva International Motor Show, revealing spherical tires as its vision for the tires of future autonomous vehicles. The tires, called the Eagle-360, are essential large rubber balls.
These tires wouldn’t connect to the vehicle’s axles; instead they would magnetically levitate under the vehicle. A battery inside the wheels would power their movement. These batteries would charge wirelessly from the car body as well as regenerative braking.
The tire treads would also have unique designs based on a vehicle’s location and habits. Does a car drive a lot in the city or on highways? A pattern would be selected to provide the best performance for those circumstances.
The tires would also include sensors that communicate road and water conditions to other vehicles. So the wheels on one car might rotate to use a different part of their tread — perhaps one built for wet conditions — after receiving word from a car ahead of an approaching slick patch.
The tires would also monitor their own wear and tear, so the 360-degree tires would rotate regularly to spread wear evenly in order to maximize the tire’s life.
And for the record, the wheels wouldn’t even turn in a traditional sense. The balls would just begin rolling in a different direction. Goodyear points to benefits such as more efficient, densely packed parking lots because cars could turn at 90-degree angles rather than the traditional wider turns that require broader lanes.