The wheel has been reinvented. Let me say that again, THE WHEEL HAS BEEN REINVENTED!
And, of course, it’s organic. And, airless, connected, rechargeable and customizable. Very 21st Century stuff. It’s a one-piece wheel and tire combo.
Michelin has unveiled the future of smart cars with its invention of , what else, Vision concept which demonstrates the potential of tire technology that will revolutionized the wheel (and tire).
Because the tire is airless, no more calculating pounds per square inch. And yes it’s made of recycled materials (both bio-sourced and biodegradable) so as to reduce waste. But here’s where it gets intriguing , the treads are 3D-printable so as to be swapped in and out depending on the road conditions WITHOUT changing the tire itself. It takes a while so the next hurdle is to make it faster.
The challenge will be figuring out a way to do it quickly, says Terry Gettys, who helped lead the project, “because consumers are going to want their tires [ready to go] in just a few minutes.
”It was under the leadership of the Michelin Corporate Innovation Board (CIB) that the VISION project was launched in Autumn 2016. The CIB’s road map was simple: imagine an object that symbolized the mobility of the future, that was packed with converging technologies and offered an ultra-high level of environmental performance, in accordance with the Group’s 4R strategy and Michelin’s values.
Michelin began by listening to people, from city motorists to race drivers, from farmers to airline pilots, from engineering equipment drivers to children barely old enough to ride bikes. Some 90 people, divided into four panels around the world were questioned about their relationship with mobility. From these discussions, important needs were identified, in particular concerning sustainability.
No users wanted to reduce their need for safety. Grip in all weather conditions and effective braking in all circumstances were essential. In addition, users embraced environmental responsibility. They wanted to consume cleanly. Why choose between a fully biodegradable tire and a rechargeable tire? Jean-Dominique Senard and the members of the Corporate Innovation Board said: “Give us both”.
It’s probable a tire that will need 20 more years of development but if you’re older than 50 years of age, you know that will feel like it’s tomorrow. The good news is that some of its features like airless designs and sensors that flag drivers when treads are getting thin could be introduced to the public within the next few years.