‘Walking Cars’ for Last-Step Delivery, Claims Hyundai

Surely one of the more outlandish flights of fancy in a conference full of dreamers, must be Hyundai’s “walking car” concept.

Naturally in a bid to give the concept a sheen of respectability during its unveiling at CES 2019, the carmaker highlights the vision’s potential as a first responder in situations such as earthquakes and other natural disasters. To be fair, the concept is not world’s away from the walking robots that have been developed for military purposes that could be deployed in theaters of conflict.

Hyundai’s take just adds a set of wheels to retractable legs that convert a tarmac rolling car into a stalking quadruped for situations where it needs to cross broken ground or climb stairs. It calls the concept Elevate which it claims is the first ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV), “blending technology found in electric cars and robots, which allows it to traverse terrain beyond the limitations of even the most capable off-road vehicle.”

The carmaker displayed several animations including a video to whet the assembled gadget geeks’ appetites for applications such as an ambulance traversing broken ground, a taxi backing up stairs for a true door-to-door ride, a military edition, and even a simulated crash where it climbs itself out of the snow-covered ditch to rejoin the highway.

The Elevate concept is based on a modular EV platform with the ability to change different body pods to suit various anticipated roles. Four robotics legs have five degrees of free movement plus wheel hub propulsion electric motors. Hyundai claims this design is capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction.

After the Elevate finishes its walk-about, the legs fold up into a stowed drive-mode, where power to the joints is cut and an energy producing passive suspension system helps to boost battery range. Designers claim the vehicle will be able to climb a five foot wall, step over a five foot gap, walk over diverse terrain, and achieve a 15 foot wide track width, all while keeping its body and passengers perfectly level.

Work on the concept has been in league with Detroit’s Sundberg-Ferar, a long-standing product innovation studio specializing in innovation strategy, design research, industrial design, user interface, engineering and prototyping.

John Suh, vice president and head of the carmakers investment wing, Hyundai Cradle, said: “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.

“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. Elevate is part of our various ‘Last-Mile’ technologies and solutions and it also has ‘Last-100 Feet’ capability too.”

In a similarly fanciful development, Continental is using CES to demonstrate its plans to use autonomous vehicles as launch pads for fleets of ‘last mile’ grocery delivery robots. If such services come to fruition, the component maker claims they will use “sensors, environment perception and modelling, localization, positioning, situation analysis, decision-making, and mechatronic actuators.”

Continental head of systems and technology Ralph Lauxmann said the company plans to use its Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE) platform to synchronize AVs with delivery robots they would carry on-board. He claimed both the platform and robots would be autonomous, electric, and compatible with “the same scalable technology portfolio.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_ Additional reporting for this story was provided by Greg Hyde.


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