Ever since man first developed transportation using machines, there has been a need to easily move those machines from place to place. The first vehicles used for this were nothing more that a flat bed set on top of logs. However that did not last long as new methods of transport were developed. The first of these was the simple cart or wagon, which later gave way to the chariot. There is some debate on where the chariot first originated but they began to show up in Egypt around 2000 B.C. Both the cart and the chariot were initially moved by the use of wheels. These first wheels were made of wood, which was fastened to a fixed axle. Examples of this have been found in the Middle East and dated to over 5,500 years old. The first examples of wooden wheels were also all solid. They worked well but solid wheels were extremely cumbersome and heavy. The spoked wheel, which allowed for lighter and swifter vehicles, were developed around 2000 B.C. Examples of these have been found all over the middle east and in Europe. Around 500 B.C. wooden wheels gave way to a newer tougher material iron. It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century and the invention of the automobile, however, that innovation finally came to the wheel. Many of the first cars manufactured actually had wooden spoked wheels.
The first rubber tires appeared in the mid 1800s. These first examples were solid and the rubber itself was solely responsible for carrying the weight of the vehicle. Andree and Edouard Michelin pioneered the first non-solid pneumatic tires for the automobile in 1895. The brothers eventually became one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of the more flexible pneumatic type and as a consequence, the use of solid rubber fell out of fashion. At first, however, there were problems with the rubber used in the pneumatics. When it was hot the rubber tended to become soft and when it was cold it became brittle. Around this same time in America, George Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process. Vulcanization actually changed the properties of rubber. With vulcanization, rubber tires became stable and predictable as to how they would react regardless of the weather, which helped in the further development of this new industry.
Because of these innovations and the invention of the automobile, in 1898 the Goodyear Tire And Rubber Company was formed in America. Soon afterwards Harvey Firestone incorporated the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and several other lesser-known companies soon followed. For the next fifty years, pneumatics were manufactured using a system that consisted of an inner tube that could be pressurized with air inside and an outer casing that protected the tube and provided traction for the automobile. Along the way other innovations cropped up to help with the durability of the casing. One of these innovations was the development of reinforced layers or “plys” of rubberized cords embedded in the casing to increase its strength. In 1948 Michelin introduced the first steel belted radials. This new “radial” design came by its name because the steel ply cords radiated at a ninety-degree angle from the wheel rim. The advantages of radials over the older ply design included not only longer tread life, better steering and rolling resistance but also better gas mileage.