In collaboration with Klairmont Kollections, Goodyear unveiled the restored Golden Sahara II at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. A custom car of the 1950s and 60s, the Golden Sahara II was one of the first concepts of autonomous vehicles and was fitted with glowing, see-through tires that were custom developed by Goodyear.

“The 1950s and 60s were a period of intense innovation for Goodyear. We partnered with mobility pioneers in everything from lunar exploration to land speed records,” said Henry Dumortier, Vice President Consumer for Goodyear Europe. “Goodyear’s collaboration on the Golden Sahara II project was our first step in shaping the future of autonomous mobility.”

Developed by Jim Street and custom car designer George Barris, the Golden Sahara II was a platform for testing new electronics systems. It featured a control system with an aircraft-inspired control lever for acceleration, braking, and steering and an automatic braking system that used sensors to detect potential objects in the car’s path.

The car’s tires were developed by Goodyear using Neothane, a translucent form of synthetic rubber, and contained internal lighting, which allowed them to glow. This was part of broader research by Goodyear into the feasibility of tires that could help improve visibility in bad weather conditions or be wired to light up when a driver hit the brakes.

In its heyday, the Golden Sahara II toured the U.S., and was featured on television and in films. It then sat in a garage for the best part of 50 years until Klairmont Kollections purchased the vehicle from Mecum Auctions in May 2018. The Golden Sahara II was restored with the help of Speakeasy Customs and Classics in Chicago and was presented at Geneva on four, newly-built Goodyear translucent tires.

Also introduced by Goodyear at the show is the Aero—a concept tire for autonomous, flying cars.

The Goodyear Aero concept is a two-in-one tire designed for the autonomous, flying cars of the future. This concept would work both as a tire for driving on the road and a “propeller” for flying through the sky.

“For over 120 years Goodyear has obsessively pursued innovations and inventions, partnering with the pioneers driving change and discovery in transport,” said Chris Helsel, Chief Technology Officer at Goodyear. “With mobility companies looking to the sky for the answer to the challenges of urban transport and congestion, our 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.”

Features of the Aero concept include:

Multimodal design: The Aero is a multimodal tilt-rotor concept. It would serve as a drivetrain to transfer and absorb forces to and from the road in a traditional orientation and an aircraft propulsion system to provide lift in another orientation. With capable vehicles, the Aero would is designed to give future commuters the ability to move from the road to the sky.

Non-pneumatic structure: The concept’s spokes are designed to provide support to carry the weight of the vehicle and act as fan blades to provide lift when the tire is tilted. This airless tire uses a non-pneumatic structure meant to be flexible enough to dampen shocks when driving on the road, and strong enough to rotate at the high speeds necessary for the rotors to create vertical lift.

Magnetic propulsion: The Aero concept would use magnetic force to provide frictionless propulsion. This would enable the high rotating speeds required to drive the vehicle on the ground and, when the wheel is tilted, lift a vehicle into the air and propel it forward.

Optical sensing: The Aero would use light-based, fiber-optic sensors to monitor road conditions, tire wear, and the structural integrity of the tire itself.

Artificial intelligence: The concept would also feature an embedded AI processor that would combine information from the tire’s sensors with data from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. The AI processor would analyze these streams of data to recommend a course of action—allowing a vehicle to adapt to a flying or driving mode—and identify and resolve potential tire-related issues before they happen. 

Goodyear says that while the Aero is a purely conceptual design, some of its featured technologies, such as a non-pneumatic structure and intelligent tire capabilities, are being developed by the company today.