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Smart Wheels

a new way to grab the road
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This idea is not entirely original, having been inspired, in part, by a device in a novel called 'Snow Crash' by Neal Stephensen (who is damn nigh a god). Also, please understand that I routinely disregard monetary expense, since I see it only as an unneccesary inhibitor to the creative process.

1) a stationary hub, supporting a low-friction, centerless roller bearing of sufficient diameter to house: a) some manner of rotational motivator, such as an electromagnetic impulse drive (aka a 'gauss motor'), linked to a central proprietary power supply located elsewhere in the vehicle. b) a dedicated, hard-wired analytic computer coupled to a focused millimeter-wave radar array, situated at the outward face of the wheel.

2) mounted to the outer ring of the bearing, a multiple-layer radial array of, oh, let's say 1024 telescopic spokes, each containing an independent linear actuator. At the base of each spoke is a small powered ball-joint allowing a traversal range of 12-15 degrees. On the tip of each spoke, a pad of supple yet non- adhesive memory plastic. Each pad is shaped so that, when arranged evenly with its counterparts, it will form into an unbroken tessellated tread pattern.

As the wheel rotates, the computer, using input from the radar and/or other sophisticated sensors, evaluates the shape, consistency, and integrity of the oncoming road surface, and extends the forward-rotating spokes to meet the surface at thier maximum reach. As rotation continues and the wheel travels forward, the spokes retract, maintaining enough power to each linear actuator to evenly distribute the weight carried by the wheel. At the end of the cycle, the spokes on the following face of the wheel once again extend, maintaining contact with the ground until they reach maximum extension, at which point they retract to a default position, travel over the top of the wheel, and extend once more.

When the system is activated, this should provide an extremely smooth and stable ride, as the contact area of each wheel would be approximately 28-31 percent of that wheel's total surface area, with each indvidual spoke adjusted to "soak up" any unevenness in the surface of the road. Custom adjustments to the computer would allow drivers to give the wheels a firmer or softer response to road features and maneuvering, for those who prefer either a "sporty" or "luxury" feel. When the system is deactivated, or not functioning properly, all of the spokes retract to the default position and form a conventional wheel shape, which should still function very well given that it will have a very "grippy" memory-plastic surface.

Please critique.

Alterother, Mar 26 2008

For [MaxwellBuchanan] http://www.google.c...g%2C+robotics&meta=
Whegs and stuff... [neutrinos_shadow, Mar 27 2008]

Similar, without the wheel Vehicle Foot Propulsion
[pashute, Aug 15 2011]


       I think one of the main attractions of the wheel is it's ability to roll with relatively little energy required. Your mechanism sounds like it be would pretty inefficient in the matter (though quite good if you wanted a low-speed mover over rough terrain)
FlyingToaster, Mar 26 2008

       That's bordering on the uncanny... how did you know that I'm a 4x4 nut?!   

       I do agree with you, though. Interestingly, Stephensen first introduces his "smart wheel" in an unpowered format, on a skateboard. Perhaps the inherent increase in drag this system would entail never ocurred to him... or, like all good fiction writers, he simply chose to ignore that aspect.
Alterother, Mar 26 2008

       this is really interesting, I think your concept is wrong as far as the flex and actuation are concerned though, I think this has far more potential in a static form that could be configured for condition but that would function in a passive mode while in operation. i need to think on it a bit but it does have some potential. (+)
jhomrighaus, Mar 26 2008

       Isn't this a wheg? (I really, really hate to admit this, but I learned that term as a result of one of [Treon]'s postings.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 26 2008

       Max, I suppose that a Wheg could be considered a crude precursor of something like this, however this is a far more sophisticated concept, The biggest problem I see is that conventional materials may not be capable of producing a wheel of this type that could stand up to anything but slow speed operations.
jhomrighaus, Mar 26 2008

       //how did you know that I'm a 4x4 nut//   

       highway drivers don't have to worry (in decentish weather) about "shape, consistency, and integrity of the oncoming road surface"   

       Probably require some new developments in your memory-plastic though; the current stuff'd just slough off pretty fast.   

       On a personal whingeing note, unless you have 2/4/8/16 fingers, using a binary exponent is usually silly ("say 1024 telescoping spokes").   

       I could be wrong, but "sporty or luxury" doesn't really sound like a viable useful option, given that there would be one setting that would be both the most efficient *and* the most quiet.
FlyingToaster, Mar 26 2008

       Hmm. Maybe I misunderstood the 'wheg'. I thought a wheg (which I have seen under various other names) was basically a spoked wheel without a rim, where the spokes could vary in length to either provide motive force or accommodate irregularities in the terrain. On this basis, the idea posted looks like a wheg, with lots of elements. Am I missing something?
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 26 2008

       [MaxwellBuchanan], whegs as I know (and mostly hate) them are simple springy spokes, typically 3 per set, used in small scale robotics to combine the simplicity of a wheel-and-axle drive with 'feet' for climbing obstacles. (<link> to get you started.)
neutrinos_shadow, Mar 27 2008

       [Toasty], you'd be surprised at the things people seem to want out of their vehicles. "Sporty" or "luxury" are not superlatives that I look for in a car either, but some folks think it's downright silly that my daily driver can roll over rocks the size of your dining-room table. Kudos to you for pegging that one, though. Also, maybe I do have sixty-four fingers! How the hell would you know?!I've got 144 toes, just imagine my socks! I've also got a lovely bunch of coconuts...   

       As for the rest of you, I direct you toward my thoughts on prohibitive expense, with the amendment that I file the words "conventional materials" under the same category. I just think up the ideas, folks, I don't know how to make 'em work....
Alterother, Mar 27 2008

       if your idea is only possible through the use of some sort of unobtanium material then it moves into the realm of magic.
jhomrighaus, Mar 27 2008

       True, true, [jhom], unless you can take a joke. I apologize for that, since you can't exactly hear me typing with my tongue in my cheek. In all seriousness, however, I contest that it moves not into the realm of magic, merely that of the future. To me, if not others, the whole point is to start people thinking and generate new ideas, especially ones I never would have thought of on my own. Fifty years ago, putting a man on the moon was "magic." Forty years ago, they did it. Maybe in ten years you'll develop some incredible material that makes something like my smartwheel feasible, and if you do, just let me say both "thank you" and "you're welcome."   

       Oh, and I'd like the first set of them to put on my Jeep.
Alterother, Mar 27 2008

       Wait, I think I can make this with only a few changes that will stay within the spirit of the idea, tell me how I do.   

       Start with a downward projected IR laser grid pattern in front of the tire for the distance of one rotation. Use a two high angle cameras hooked to a computer to see the contour of the on coming road surface.   

       Have the computer control valves that control flow to and from 1024 hydropneumatic pistons which have your memory plastic tread-feet at the end.   

       The default setting centers the cylinders and the wheel rolls with contact patch based on the volume of the gas in the pneumatic cylinders allowing for flexion.   

       The active setting accounts for upcoming bumps by allowing some of the hydraulic fluid to leak out of the pressurized cylinders before the feet leave the pavement at the back of the tread and allows for upcoming dips by allowing extra fluid in to the cylinders to bleed into the cylinders while they are centrifugally flung out at the top of the rotation.
MisterQED, Mar 27 2008

       Actually, hydropneumatics _would_ be better than linear actuators, which tend to be kind of stiff. I like it.
Alterother, Mar 27 2008


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