It can communicate with the vehicle, and has tread that can change to suit varying needs.
— Montreal, Quebec
Tires aren’t sexy. There, I said it. But we all know this don’t we? Maybe that’s why Michelin’s Visionary Concept tire unveiled at the Movin’On Conference was coloured blue and shown under some very sexy lighting.
So what is the Visionary Concept exactly? It’s Michelin’s idea of what a tire could be, the way it believes it should be. A tire that uses no air, made possible by a honeycomb structure throughout, which as the company describes is a “generative design: a form that mimics the natural growth process at work in the plant, mineral or sometimes even animal world, such as in corals, for example.”
The tread on the tire can be “replenished” as it were, using a cold cure 3D printing technology. In the video above, the company envisions these tire printers as something vehicle owners could simply drive up to, select an option in-car, and have the machine print new tread onto the tires in real time.
Speaking with media, Michelin Executive Vice President of Research and Development Terry Gettys pointed out that the company is still in the very early stages of this research and that the durability of 3D printed tread is yet to be verified.
A technology that isn’t too far away, the smart tire, is also part of the Visionary Concept’s tech repertoire. The tire is capable of sending treadwear information to the vehicle, and request a tread reprint depending on where the vehicle is travelling to.
Speaking on the smart aspect of the Visionary Concept tire, Gettys mentions that we can expect to see connected tire tech show up for passenger vehicle and light truck use in the next two or three years. Much of the other technology, however, has projections for the next 10-20 years.
He also speaks about how the future concept tire will be optimized for comfort and low noise as autonomous vehicles become more prevalent, diminishing the need for handling-focused tires.
Michelin says the tire will be made of a wide variety of biodegradable recycled materials and that it will be completely recyclable at life’s end. Because of the reprintable tread, the life of each tire is said to be that of the vehicle it’s attached to. Oh, and yes, the wheel is part of the tire structure.
The Visionary Concept tire is more an exploration and idea of what the future of rubber on the road could look like rather than an actual product for today. And while some of the tech seems farfetched, it’s still an intriguing look into what the future of transportation could look like.
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1.com