Parallel parking is the worst. It is a challenge for both experienced drivers on the road and newbies in Driver’s Ed. But Canadian inventor William Liddiard has come to the rescue with omnidirectional wheels that could help parallel parkers everywhere.
Liddiard spent eight years and nearly $80,000 CAD ($61,586) on his research and patent costs. He stated, “I was watching somebody backing up a utility trailer and they were having a hard time doing it ... so that's how initially I came up with the idea of redesigning the wheel sideways.”
Liddiard's Toyota Echo with omnidirectional wheels
The omnidirectional wheels include small discs around the circumference which are perpendicular to the turning direction. The wheel can be driven at full force but also easily slide laterally. The wheels are most commonly used in robots so that they can effortlessly move in all directions.
However, Liddiard is not the first person to tinker with omnidirectional wheels. The invention was actually first patented in 1919 by J. Grabowiecki. Honda submitted a patent in 2012 for a similar technology seen in an OkGo music video. Honda’s patent actually made Liddiard reconsider his own design before submitting it.
An omnidirectional wheel has yet to be introduced to the mass market, so Liddiard is trying to change that. The inventor hopes to attract the attention of companies such as Goodyear and Honda. He remarked, “I would love to see a major corporation pick it up and run with it. They could bring it to market more effectively and quicker than I could, but I'm not going to stop. I'll keep moving forward with it.”
Liddiard claims that his wheels can simply bolt onto an existing car without further modifications. They are designed to be functional in all weather and road conditions and have the same build characteristics of regular tires. In the video, you can see the tires attached to Liddiard’s Toyota Echo.
The omnidirectional wheels still need quite a bit of tinkering. The current design delivers 24,000 pounds of torque or rotational force to the wheels. He admits that this is problematic and that future designs would need a different gearing ratio. Liddiard estimated the cost of his system to come in at around $2,000 CAD ($1,541 USD) per tire. There is still quite some time before the invention could be introduced to the mass market, so perhaps we'll see that cost figure dwindle.