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MagLev Tires Roll Sideways Into the Future

Designed for self-driving cars, the Eagle-360 connects to a vehicle by magnetic field. Continue reading →

I suppose this is what you call lateral thinking.

Tire manufacturer Goodyear revealed plans this week for a spherical automobile tire design that would allow autonomous vehicles to move sideways as easily as they move forward or backward.

In fact, the concept tire would enable truly omnidirectional movement by eliminating that pesky 4,000-year-old tradition known as the wheel-and-axle.

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Goodyear - officially the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company - announced the Eagle-360 concept at this year's 86th Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland. The company says the concept tire could "literally reshape" the future of self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles.

The immediate question that presents itself: How do you attach a spherical tire to a vehicle? While no technical details have been released, it appears that the Eagle-360 would employ a magnetic levitation system to suspend the vehicle over the top of its four (or more) wheels. Concept images suggest that the spherical tires would be almost entirely enclosed by the vehicle body itself.

Internal sensors would communicate road and weather conditions to the vehicle control system, as well as regulate even tire wear by constantly monitoring tread and air pressure. The omnidirectional movement system would enable the vehicle to navigate busy urban environments and parking lots.

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And of course, it would be a dream come for those of us who are still confounded by parallel parking. Goodyear is also incorporating biomimetic elements into the design: The 3-D printed tire tread mimics the pattern of brain coral and acts like an organic sponge, the company says.

Check out the space-age concept video below to get a sense of the Eagle-360 system in action.

click to play video

Do designers dream of electric cars? Sure they do, and nuclear sedans and space-age minivans, too. And they've been doing it for a long, long time. The forthcoming exhibition "Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas" will bring 17 historical concept cars to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, along with conceptual artwork like this illustration by renown futurist designer Syd Mead ("Blade Runner," "Aliens" and "Tron").

The 1936 Stout Scarab, designed by William B. Stout, is considered by historians to be the genesis of the minivan. “The concept cars presented in Dream Cars demonstrate how design can transcend the present and offer new paths and opportunities for the future,” said Sarah Schleuning, exhibition curator.

The 1942

L'Oeuf électrique

was an electric bubble car designed by Paul Arzens for his personal use in Paris during German occupation. The vehicle has never before traveled to the United States for exhibition.

The 1954 Firebird was part of General Motors' series of Motorama auto shows, cutting-edge design events that combined art, science and runway glamor. The Motorama expos ran from 1949 to 1961.

The 1970 Ferrari 512 S Modulo, designed by Paolo Martin, visits Atlanta by way of Turin, Italy. The Modulo features a canopy-style roof that slides back to allow entry into the cabin.

Designer Marcello Gandini's Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero is only 33 inches high. Most concept cars are never mass-produced, but are designed to push the boundaries of what's technically and stylistically possible.

The 2001 BMW GINA Light Visionary Model features an exterior made entirely of fabric. The body of the car can change shape on demand or according to speed, thanks to a moveable aluminum wire structure.

The original Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Car (2010) comes out of the word-famous Porche Design Studio. This design resulted in a limited edition hybrid "supercar" -- Porsche manufactured 918 units last year. Starting price? $850,000.