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Goodyear Testing Airless Tires on Autonomous Shuttle

by Charles Choi
Goodyear non-pneumatic tires on a Local Motors Olli shuttle. Courtesy: Goodyear.

In an industry first, Goodyear has developed airless tires to support autonomous vehicles in a city setting, the company announced July 13.

For the past three years, Goodyear has explored the performance of its “non-pneumatic” tire and wheel assembly on the autonomous 3D-printed electric shuttle Olli 2.0 from Phoenix, Arizona-based motor vehicle company Local Motors. This research, conducted at Goodyear testing facilities and other locations, focused on load, speed and durability.

A Goodyear non-pneumatic airless tire. Courtesy: Goodyear.

Goodyear suggested its airless tires may prove more sustainable, longer-lasting and maintenance-free than conventional options.

“Autonomous vehicles, like Olli, need to decrease maintenance costs and perform reliably,” Vikrant Aggarwal, president of Local Motors, said in a statement. “Goodyear’s non-pneumatic tires are positioned to give maintenance teams less to worry about while giving passengers a quiet, consistent ride. Non-pneumatic tires may just be the industry standard in the coming years.”

Now Goodyear is testing its airless tires in Jacksonville, Florida. 

“The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is proud to integrate this innovative and sustainable technology into our Autonomous Vehicle Test & Learn program,” Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO, said in a statement. 

This research is examining ride comfort and noise, among other variables.

“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,” Michael Rachita, Goodyear’s senior program manager of non-pneumatic tires, said in a statement. “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.”

This project with Olli 2.0 is part of work that Jacksonville is conducting to retire its existing Skyway trains in the city’s downtown area and replace them with autonomous vehicles. The ultimate goal is to create a 10-mile urban transit network.

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