“This car will take people where no vehicle has been before.” – Hyundai

Hyundai is calling Elevate the world’s first Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV) – an electric vehicle with four robotic legs designed to allow the car to walk or climb over rough terrain. It made its first debut at CES 2019 where the company revealed a design concept and a 1:8 scale model prototype of the walking car.

The little robotic replica crawled along the floor on its four legs and even climbed onto a platform; and through all of this the body of the vehicle remained relatively level.

The presentation of the vehicle elaborated on all of Hyundai’s ideas about how one of these cars could be useful. Most scenarios are medical related.

For example, in the case of a natural disaster:

“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,” John Suh, Hyundai vice president, said in a news release. “Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.”

The Hyundai Elevate Concept in action after an earthquake

Or for providing transportation services to people with mobility issues:

“This technology goes well beyond emergency situations,” Suh said. “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.”

The Hyundai Elevate Concept helps a person get to a doctor appointment in a city.

Elevate’s wheels with robotic legs allow users to drive, walk or even climb over the most treacherous terrain. It will be able to get immediate help to those in need in those first crucial 72 hours right after a natural disaster. Many more lives can be saved. That is what inspired this concept car to begin with – the need for efficient, rapid, resilient transportation for disaster assistance.

The body of the vehicle is modular. It is attached to an EV platform with the capability to switch out different bodies for specific situations.

The architecture of its robotic legs has five degrees of freedom plus wheel hub propulsion motors. It utilizes the latest in electric actuator technology to function. The design is uniquely capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits. Because of that it can move in any direction.

The Hyundai Elevate demonstrates its mammalian walking gaits.

When it doesn’t need to walk, the legs can fold up into a stowed drive-mode by cutting the power to the joints, which also saves battery power. This mode allows for Elevate to drive at highway speeds just like any other vehicle.

The Hyundai Elevate in drive mode.

Here’s a list with a few of the engineering enhancements from Hyundai:

  • Robotic legs with five degrees of freedom plus in-wheel propulsion
  • Ability to walk in mammalian and reptilian style gaits for omnidirectional motion
  • Capable of climbing a five foot vertical wall
  • Step over a five foot gap
  • Non-back drivable motors enable the legs to lock in any position
  • Modular electric vehicle platform

“By combining the power of robotics with Hyundai’s latest EV technology, Elevate has the ability to take people where no car has been before, and redefine our perception of vehicular freedom,” said David Byron, design manager, Sundberg-Ferar. “Imagine a car stranded in a snow ditch just 10 feet 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.”

A Hyundai Elevate climbs itself out of a snow-covered ditch.

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