Goodyear begins testing its new airless tyres on autonomous shuttle – mass rollout by end of decade

Goodyear has developed a non-pneumatic (airless) tyre – NPT for short – and wheel assembly to support autonomous vehicle transportation in a city setting, with the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) programme operated by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) serving as a testbed for the technology.

The airless tyres will be fitted on an Olli eight-person autonomous shuttle from Local Motors for in-field use, which is described as an industry first. Previously, Goodyear had been working with Local Motors on developing this technology for the past three years, with several performance targets like load, speed and durability being reached.

In 2019, Goodyear pivoted its NPT development to on-road testing, and the latest testing phase announced serves to validate the technology. The company claims airless tyres offers several benefits, including being maintenance-free, longer-lasting and more sustainable. The company expect its first NPT tyres to be introduced to the larger market by the end of the decade.

Airless tyres support a vehicle’s by using a spoke or web design rather than relying on pressurised air like in regular automotive tyres. As such, they don’t suffer from over- and under-inflation, which could extend their tread life. The urban transportation environment provides an ideal testing scenario for the alternative tyre architecture given its lower speed and less variable travel paths.

Over the testing phase, Goodyear and Local Motors will gather experiential data from the JTA, looking for viewpoints on ride comfort, noise and other variables. “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,” said Michael Rachita, Goodyear’s senior program manager, non-pneumatic tyres.

“The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is proud to integrate this innovative and sustainable technology into our autonomous vehicle test and learn programme as we develop the future of mobility through the Ultimate Urban Circulator,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr, JTA CEO.

“Autonomous vehicles, like Olli, need to decrease maintenance costs and perform reliably. 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,” commented Vikrant Aggarwal, Local Motors president.

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