Forget about parallel parking: These wheels can make your car drive sideways

Canadian commercial driver William Liddiard bet $60,000 of his own money and eight years of work that drivers would interested in a vehicle that moves in any direction. His proof of concept video makes the car look as if gliding back and forth on a sheet of ice. The video is appropriately titled You’ve never seen a car do this, and it is stunning to see a car move so nimbly, powered by Liddiard’s  omnidirectional wheel design.

Omnidirectional wheels are not entirely new, but Liddiard’s protoype shows them in action in a way not yet seen on an actual car. Earlier applications relied on comparatively small-scale wheels installed on wheelchairs, robotics, or personal mobility devices, according to CNBC. Those early prototypes were simply not designed to support the weight and torque needed for passenger vehicles.

Matthew Liddiard and his prototype omnidirectional wheel
William Liddiard and his prototype omnidirectional wheel William Liddiard

Liddiard’s patent design shows support for higher weight limits and tires that can handle 24,000 pounds of torque. The design sports two small rubber tires mounted on roller-equipped rims capable of rotating the tires horizontally. The tires are very low profile, and do not appear strong enough to move the car. Watch the video, though, and you will see that they can and very clearly do.

Liddiard wrote an executive summary of his invention, and described the wheels as “a world first bolt-on application for anything with wheels.” He said, “Now you can drive in all directions and turn on the spot, when needed.”

The wheels not only allow the car to move sideways, but also allow it to turn on a dime, providing exceptional mobility in tight spaces. Liddiard’s video shows his Toyota turn from head to tail without any forward motion, and looks as if it is rotating on a stationary turntable. This concept would make maneuvering a vehicle in urban congestion and parking effortless.

The estimated price point is much lower than similar applications at $1,500 per wheel, according to the National Post. Of course, that amount is subject to change based on the actual vehicle and size of the wheel.

For Liddiard’s proof of concept, he outfitted a Toyota Echo with his prototype wheels. If the results shown are replicable, the possibilities for practical application of this concept are game changing. Urban design and road networks are designed with the limits of forward moving vehicles in mind. If omnidirectional wheels are widely adopted, parking structures, roads, and traffic patterns could be redesigned to increase efficiencies based on improved vehicle mobility.

Liddiard hopes to sell the concept to an automaker, but will continue development of the project on his own until that point.

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