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Goodyear tests airless tires on driverless shuttles

Company says the technology has potential for commercial use

Jacksonville's driverless shuttles will soon use airless tires. PHOTO FROM GOODYEAR

Go out for a drive and you will inevitably hit a pothole or two. Or three, but you get my point. Even with advancements in modern tire technology, the air-filled rubber donuts on our cars are still susceptible to failure especially when they hit a particularly bad bump with jagged edges. One solution that the automotive industry is working on is the airless tire.

Airless tires aim to be a safe and maintenance-free alternative to air-filled ones. By eliminating pneumatics out of the equation, such tires will never ever experience a catastrophic failure resulting from a puncture or a blowout. Goodyear is currently developing a non-pneumatic tire for use on passenger shuttles.

Airless tires have some advantages over run-flat rubber. PHOTO FROM GOODYEAR

For the past three years, the tire firm and US-based Local Motors have been testing autonomous Olli transports fitted with NPTs. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is evaluating the performance of these vehicles for possible deployment as driverless public shuttles. So far, the NPTs have reached their performance targets in terms of load capacity, speed and durability out in the field.

“As mobility evolves, we feel that tires 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 program manager for non-pneumatic tires. “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 tires by the end of the decade.”

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.