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Concept tire: our vision of the future

At the Movin'On international summit on sustainable mobility held in Montreal last June, Michelin unveiled a concept tire that illustrates its vision of the mobility of the future in a combination of groundbreaking technologies and services.

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In fall 2016, at the CIB's1 initiative, we embarked on a project that was a first for the Company: to devise a solution that not only captures the essence of the mobility of the future but also reflects the Group's major innovation projects, focuses on our mission to provide "a better way forward" for all, and is a realistic response to the tenets of the circular economy.

This exercise in creativity (apart from business considerations) was also an opportunity to try innovative working methods. Our teams at the Ladoux Research Center tested innovative approaches such as design thinking (see box 1), generative design (see box 2) and even biomimetics (or morphogenesis), which led them to take inspiration from the patterns created by nature, especially in the plant kingdom.

We also wanted the concept to be realistic, since there is no point devising objects or services that are simply impracticable. This is why the initial phase of co-construction with users, designed to help us understand their needs, was very important. In all, 77 people divided into four panels around the world were asked about how they relate to mobility. We also drew on technologies and research programs that we were already exploring, such as metal 3D printing (AddUp2), biomaterials (the BioButterfly2 project) and connected tires (through our Michelin Solutions and MICHELIN Tire Care offers, for example).

Ultimately, the Vision concept is both a showcase for our know-how and a promise for the future, within or almost within reach. 

What you need to know about the Vision concept

Vision is a combination of three components:

1. An airless wheel

Alveolar structure, inspired by models in nature (and more specifically coral), makes it ultra-hard-wearing. It's composite material is made of fully organic materials and/or materials that are the product of recycling.
 

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2. A tread

You can top up yourself, using a 3D printer, when it is worn or when it needs to be adjusted for a different type of road conditions, such as off-road, rain, snow, etc. The material used for the tread is biodegradable.
 

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3. The Vision tire is also connected

Without leaving home, you can get information about the condition of your tires and program their reprinting with the type of tread pattern required at that particular time.
 

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This vision of future mobility is underpinned by a vision of the economy that guides our research and innovation: a circular economy, capable of preserving the planet's resources for future generations by reducing, reusing, renewing and recycling (4R) the materials required to manufacture the products we need today for our mobility and hence our development. This is the definition of sustainable mobility - the only possible definition in the long run.

 

1 Corporate Innovation Board draws up the Company's innovation roadmap. It sets priorities that will channel resources and energy into value-creating innovations.
AddUp: a joint venture set up by Fives and Michelin to develop metal 3D printing.
BioButterfly: this partnership between Axens, IFP and Michelin is exploring the possibility of producing synthetic rubber from renewable materials such as straw and wood chips.

Design thinking

Design thinking is an approach to innovation and innovation management that blends analytical and intuitive thinking. It works through a process of co-creativity based on end-user feedback. The approach is generally summed up in five steps that form a logical sequence but which need not be dealt with in linear fashion: the process can loop back to any of the steps if and as required.

The empathy phase is key. It consists in:

  • interviewing users, in order to
  • understand what they do, think and 
  • really feel, based on what they say.
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Generative Design

Generative design uses the computational power of a computer to produce an object that would be beyond the reach of human brainpower alone. Generative design is perhaps best understood through its analogy with botany, agriculture or any discipline concerned with ecosystem design.
This approach can be used, for example, in biomimetics, where digital tools make it possible to generate structures inspired by nature. These are known as morphogenetic strategies.

Video

Concept Visionary MICHELIN