PRODUCTS: Inventing a New Wheel

French Tire Maker Francois Michelin once boasted, "The automobile is an accessory of the tire." Italy's Pirelli company is trying hard to prove the point. The leading Italian rubber manufacturer has rolled out a prototype tire that, according to company officers, practically eliminates the chance of a blowout or the need for a spare; when deflated, it can run for more than 100 miles at cruising speeds.

The secret is in the tire's shape, which in cross section is roughly triangular (see diagram). In a conventional rounded tire, air pressure puts a heavy...

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