Hyundai tells utility vehicle to take a walk

Elevate concept has articulated legs allowing it to go where others can't

Published: January 7, 2019, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:57 PM

Hyundai Elevate walking car concept

Likely drawing inspiration from the seemingly contradicting tasks of taking the dog for a walk or for a car-ride, Hyundai has developed Elevate, the electric vehicle that can drive, walk and climb over the most challenging of terrain.

Actually, the inspiration for what the company calls the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV) came from the need of first-responders to attend areas in dire need following a natural disaster (especially earthquakes and hurricanes, which can inflict devastating infrastructure damage), a task that diminishes in chance of success following the initial 72 hours, usually when the hard-hit areas are also overwhelmingly unnavigable.

“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,” explains John Suh, Hyundai vice president and head of Hyundai’s Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences (CRADLE). “Elevate is part of our various ‘Last-Mile’ technologies and solutions and it also has ‘Last-100-Feet’ capability — (it) can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete. (But) this technology goes well beyond emergency situations.”

The company points out that the vehicle could also be adapted for handi-transit applications, with the ability to climb stairs exterior stairs or other landscaping terrain in homes without wheelchair ramps, level itself to the front door threshold and allow the wheelchair to roll right in, thanks to the cabin access from all four sides.

As with many of today’s electric vehicle concepts, Elevate uses a modular platform that allows different bodies to be mounted, depending on the needs. The robotic-leg architecture has five degrees of freedom and wheel hub propulsion enabled by the latest in electric actuator technology, making it capable of mimicking the gaits of mammals or reptiles.

That grants it the ability to move in any direction, climb a 5-foot wall or cross a 5-foot gap, all the while keeping its cabin completely level, so it doesn’t buffet passengers about. The combination of wheeled propulsion and articulated legs make the walking speeds faster than with other robots without the danger of tipping over. And the legs can also lock in any position.

When the legs aren’t needed, they can fold up and the vehicle can drive as any other vehicle, up to highway speeds

“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 at industrial design consultancy firm 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.”