Crazy futuristic tire concepts are nothing new. Witness, for example, last year's Goodyear Eagle-360, a sphere designed to used magnetic levitation technology instead of a wheel and axle. But this is 2017, a year when the world no longer seems to stick to conventional norms. So this year, the Gallic geniuses at Michelin have come up with something even more ludicrous—yet somehow, simultaneously realistic: an airless, 3-D printed, biodegradable tire that never goes flat and lasts as long as the car it rides on.
The Vision tire concept, revealed at the company's Movin'On summit in Montreal, is actually a combination wheel-and-tire, one printed out of biologically-inspired material—which is why it kind of looks like the coral version of a wagon wheel. It's made of recycled materials, and since it isn't pressurized, it can never go flat.
(Interestingly enough, Michelin can't seem to agree on exactly what to call the "tire;" one press release describes it as the "Visionary" concept, while a second released the same day called it "VISION," in all caps. We've decided to split the difference and go with "Vision," due to both our house style of not placing nouns in all caps and our love of the Avengers franchise.)
Not only is the tire itself 3-D printed, but so is the replaceable tread. This lets the Vision score whatever pattern it needs in minutes, Michelin says—enabling drivers to print out new treads on demand. The tires are also designed to communicate with the car, informing it when the "rubber" is wearing down and even making suggestions as to what type of tread might be best for the time and place. No more worrying about jagoffs forgetting to swap on snow tires when the cold hits; their tires will be smart enough to tell them when it's time for winter tread.