Prime Mover Magazine

In the wheelhouse: Goodyear

As it prepares for the future, Goodyear, recognises autonomous vehicles have the potential to dramatically shift the requirements and expectations of the tyre. To build knowledge and develop solutions for this type of application Goodyear has partnered with Local Motors who are deploying autonomous shuttle buses called ‘Olli’.

Moving humans safely through autonomous technology may not be a new enterprise. Most people are not concerned with the concept of getting into a driverless elevator even though the concept of an elevator needing a driver would be foreign to many. Elevators, when first introduced, were exclusively controlled by elevator drivers. The driver was not only responsible for moving the elevator up and down but also for positioning it within the destination floor.

By the start of the 1900s, companies had developed systems to make elevators fully automatic. However, early adoption was slow going and these did not readily spread into service. The issue at the time was people did not trust that a machine could do the job as well as a driver.

Nearly 40 years later, a widespread strike of the New York elevator operator’s union changed the situation leading to widespread introduction and acceptance of automatic elevators.

Autonomous vehicles are far more complicated in comparison to an elevator. Similar principles do, however, apply to both. Change, according to Goodyear, can be difficult to introduce but once accepted it’s impossible to reverse. Driverless cars have more complexity, variables and stakeholders involved but at the same time there are greater benefits as well as more advanced technologies and resources available to solve the issues that lay ahead.

In order to better understand these coming changes, Goodyear has partnered with Local Motors on an autonomous shuttle bus called Olli. The relatively small, by people carrier standards, eight-person autonomous electric vehicle has been designed with an urban environment in mind. Its application is suited to hospitals, campuses, stadiums, entertainment districts, large commercial areas and locations where people need to be moved from one place to another. At current, there are 300 running globally. In Australia the first is being seen at work in Adelaide. As it primarily operates off public roads at lower speeds, the Olli is easily deployed within varying regulations. According to Goodyear Chief Technology Officer Chris Helsel, this also provides an ideal platform to develop autonomous algorithms in which to learn about the best way to optimise tyre management without a driver.

“Our work on autonomous vehicle projects, such as the Olli, is another mile marker on our journey to future mobility solutions,” he says. “We learn through pilot programs with leading start-ups, transferring advanced vehicle and ride-sharing data into truly usable and connected information to improve operating performance and benefit customers.”

In this scenario, as feedback will no longer come from the driver, tyre conditions will have to be monitored via sensors. Insofar as tyre pressure and real-time temperature can be measured by sensors, in future other parameters are likely to be included such as tread depth and road condition. According to Goodyear, involvement in these embryonic stages of autonomous vehicles will help it as a company establish the best ways in which to connect this information to the systems that require it. Ultimately, it facilitates building a process to ensure tyres and vehicle perform as intended.

“It is not yet clear how long it will take autonomous vehicles to become mainstream, but it is apparent it’s progressing and that the changes will need to be managed carefully by all stakeholders,” Goodyear said in a statement. “It’s not hard to imagine that in the future if someone was asked whether they are concerned about getting into a driverless vehicle, they will reply with ‘what other types are there’?”

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