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Autonomous Vehicles Drive Demand for Puncture-Resistant Tires

Solid, airless tires preceded today’s pneumatic tires but were replaced by radial tires for better ride comfort. With the advent of autonomous vehicles, interest in airless tires is resuming. Today’s cars spend the majority of their days idle. Autonomous vehicles will spend most of their days in motion (and hopefully without a driver to check on the tires) and thus the necessity for a breakdown-proof tire becomes a priority. Michelin pioneered the technology in 2005 on a wheelchair, and they were commercially launched in 2012, but in limited-use cases such as lawnmowers and golf carts, and construction machinery, all of which have higher puncture risks.

At the recent Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota’s Hino Motors demonstrated an electric people-to-parcel mover running on airless tires. Michelin and GM have announced a joint research agreement aiming to put airless tires on production vehicles by 2024, with testing to start on GM’s Bolt EV this year. For EVs in particular, an airless tire would allow for a motor to be fitted directly inside the wheel, which would open up space in the passenger cabin. EV makers hope that airless tires will weigh less than traditional tires, which would increase range.

In the meantime, Baker Donelson’s attorneys are well-versed in defending tire product liability claims.