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Flying Cars: Closer Than You Think

When you think about the future, one of the first things you probably imagine is a world with flying cars zooming over your head across the sky. The flying car has been an idea since 1926 when Henry Ford created a single-seat airplane called the “sky fivver”. Although his creation was not technically a flying car, it did spark the idea and excited the public about the possibility of a mass-produced affordable airplane product that would be made, marketed, sold and maintained just like an automobile. Ford also predicted: “Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.” Ford made this claim 80 years ago and, today, we are closer than ever to making that a reality.

Goodyear Tires has just unveiled their concept for the wheels of a flying car. Goodyear Tires is an American multinational tire manufacturing company that was founded in 1898 in Akron, Ohio. Goodyear produces tires for automobiles, commercial trucks, light trucks, motorcycles, SUVs, race cars, airplanes, farm equipment, bicycles and heavy earth-mover machinery. In 2018 the company ranked 187th on the Fortune 500 list of the largest United States companies by revenue marking its 24th year on the list.

At this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, Goodyear unveiled its design for the Goodyear Aero. The Aero is an airless tire that would also double as a propeller. The tires would have bladed spokes that act as a fan and would allow the wheels to flip upwards and propel the car into the air. Goodyear’s chief technology officer, Chris Helsel, explains that “with mobility companies looking to the sky for the answer to challenges of urban transport and congestion, [their] work on advanced tire architectures and materials led us to imagine a wheel that could serve both as a traditional tire on the road and as a propulsion system in the sky”.

The tires themselves would work as a traditional tire when the car is in drive mode and then, to take flight, two of the tires would rotate to become horizontal with the ground. A magnetic propulsion system forces the spokes on the horizontal tires to begin spinning and act as propeller blades to life the vehicle off of the ground. Once off of the ground, the other two tires would rotate and the car would be in propeller mode.

The tire also employs a variety of other technologies, including fiber optic sensors and an artificially intelligent processor. The idea is that by including these sensors each car will be able to have information about the cars around it and adjust its path accordingly to avoid collisions and accidents.

According to Goodyear, we should not expect to see these exact tires hit the market for a little while, but it is possible that some of the technological concepts used in these tires could be on the market in the near future.

With the rapid development of autonomous technology over the last decade, we are closer than ever before to a world where we fly our car to and from the grocery store. The computing power of the technology that is readily available today allows for the potential of a fully autonomous flying vehicle. The sensors and processing power required to safely keep a network of vertical-take-off-and-landing are currently being developed by companies across the globe. Advances in electric propulsion and the increasing complexity and power of batteries are more developments that are making the concept of a flying car even more feasible.

Although flying cars do not appear to be anywhere near the market, that does not mean that there is a lot of people across the globe working day in and day out to make them available. Japan is one country that is working as hard as possible to bring a flying car to the market to help solve their nation;s traffic issues. The Japanese government believes that flying cars would decrease congestion, boost tourism, and increase access to remote areas. Twenty-one companies, including Uber, Boeing and Airbus, and organizations are currently working alongside the Japanese government to lay out the roadmap to flying car adoption in Japan and get them to the market within the next decade.

Although flying cars always seem to be something that would be available in a far away future, with the Goodyear Aero tires and Japan’s large ambition’s we are closer than ever before to seeing these cars in our day-to-day life.

Check out Goodyear Tires’ concept video for their dual-purpose land and air tires here!

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