Goodyear intros airless tires for AV applications

July 14, 2021
The non-pneumatic tire will see its first in-field use on an autonomous shuttle being tested by JTA.

The future of autonomous vehicles could roll into reality on tires lacking a traditional element: air.

At an event in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 13, Goodyear introduced a non-pneumatic tire (NPT) and wheel assembly to support autonomous vehicle transportation in a city setting. Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) will be the first in the industry to host the NPT on its autonomous vehicle fleet where Local Motors’ Olli 2.0 will be equipped with the airless tire as part of the Test & Learn Program as the authority continues to plan for its Ultimate Urban Circulator program.

“The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is proud to integrate this innovative and sustainable technology into our Autonomous Vehicle Test & Learn program as we develop the future of mobility through the Ultimate Urban Circulator,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. “This collaboration is another example of how Jacksonville is leading the public transportation industry in developing AV mobility solutions.”

Goodyear and Local Motors have tested an Olli shuttle supported by the NPT at Goodyear testing facilities and other locations during the past three years. Goodyear notes the NPT reached several performance targets with respect to load, speed and durability.

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

Goodyear explains airless tires may offer sustainable, maintenance-free and longer-lasting options for transport and the testing phase will provide additional information about NPTs.

Goodyear and Local Motors will gather experiential data from the JTA, looking for viewpoints on ride comfort, noise and other variables. The urban transportation environment provides an ideal testing scenario for the alternative tire architecture given its lower speed and less variable travel paths.

The Ollie 2.0 shuttle arrived at JTA in late August 2020 and was developed through a partnership with Beep, Local Motors and Robotic Research LLC. Before it was equipped with the airless tires, the shuttle achieved another “first” as the first electric, autonomous, 3D-printed shuttle built in the United States.

“Testing with best-in-class software and technology partners is enabling the JTA to lead globally in readiness for the use of autonomous platform in an urban environment. We are excited for the opportunity to extend the Test & Learn program with the JTA, Goodyear and Local Motors to prove out the use of other innovations such as the Goodyear airless tires, as this will only further transform transportation as we know it,” said Joe Moye, Beep CEO.

Local Motors President Vikrant Aggarwal added, "Autonomous vehicles, like Olli, need to decrease maintenance costs and perform reliably. 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."

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.