What if cars could walk? Well, an answer to that question has just walked onto the global CES stage.
Hyundai’s Elevate robotic walking car concept is designated as the first “ultimate mobility vehicle” (UMV), bringing together the minds of Hyundai’s Center for Robotic Augmented Design in Living Experiences (CRADLE) division and industrial design consultancy Sundberg-Ferar.
“The transportation industry has focused on ‘Last Mile’ solutions in recent years, but this project focuses on the ‘Last 100 meters,’ no matter where they are,” according to Sundberg-Ferar.
The Future of the First Responder Industry
The most critical timeframe to save lives after a natural disaster boils down to the first 72 hours, according to Hyundai. First responders’ need for efficient, resilient transportation in disaster scenarios (forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc.) was the driving force behind a vehicle concept with moveable legs.
“When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete,” says John Suh, Hyundai vice president and head of Hyundai CRADLE.
In addition to disaster relief assistance, Hyundai Elevate is looking to help those with disabilities.
“This technology goes well beyond emergency situations—people living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in—the possibilities are limitless,” continues Suh.
Sundberg-Ferar’s Design Manager David Byron paints another picture where Elevate may prove useful, “Imagine a car stranded in a snow ditch just 10 ft off the highway being able to walk or climb over the treacherous terrain, back to the road potentially saving its injured passengers—this is the future of vehicular mobility.”
Designing a Walking Car
The concept has a modular electric vehicle (EV) platform, with a switchable body to suit its terrain and use case. The car’s legs have five degrees of freedom, “plus wheel hub propulsion motors and is enabled by the latest in electric actuator technology,” according to Hyundai.
Elevate’s legs can handle both reptilian and mammalian walking gaits, a feature that allows for movement in any direction. When in drive-mode, its legs fold up and lose power to the joints.
This leg storability, according to Hyundai, allows “Elevate to drive at highway speeds just like any other vehicle. But no other can climb a 5-ft wall, step over a 5 ft-gap, walk over diverse terrain, and achieve a 15-ft-wide track width, all while keeping its body and passengers completely level.”
The legs attach to the chassis, which is also home to Elevate’s battery.
To test the car’s capabilities, the team visited the Rubicon Trail’s 17 stages, which fall into five severity levels. Balancing leg articulation, scaled power consumption, and driving portions, Elevate completed the 22-mi course with its 66 kWh battery.
You can see the design for yourself in the video below.