Hyundai Concept Vehicle Morphs into Giant, Walking Robot

The automaker believes Elevate, an Ultimate Mobility Vehicle, could help communities in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

At CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Hyundai debuted Elevate, an Ultimate Mobility Vehicle. The vehicle promises to to "move beyond the limitation of the rolling chassis," and it's going to do it by transforming into a giant, walking robot.

The vehicle concept was developed by Sundberg-Ferar for Hyundai CRADLE, the car maker's innovation division. The initial pitch is that the UMV could help communities prepare for natural disasters. 

The concept vehicle has wheels attached to robotic legs that allow the driver to walk over and even climb rubble. It can step over five-foot-wide holes and five-foot-tall vertical walls, or drive with a 15-foot-wide track β€” in case it needs to drive over a sinkhole or small-scale crater. Right now, the concept has two walking modes: reptilian and mammalian.

The first 72 hours following a natural disaster are the most crucial when it comes to saving lives, but most emergency transportation vehicles can't navigate the terrain; much of it includes retrofit army vehicles or souped up ATVs.

Elevate borrows technology from electric vehicles and robots, and it's capable of more than assisting during natural disasters.

The robotic legs have five degrees of freedom and wheel hub propulsion motors that make it capable of the bio-inspired gaits while keeping the body and passengers level. When it's in drive mode, the legs fold into the vehicle and power is cut to the joints.

The concept has been under development for nearly three years. Other applications include taxis that truly meet you at your door as well as my favorite (and seasonally appropriate): climbing out of the snow.

While it looks like the Elevate will struggle on the ice (as it's pictured in the ditch), it will be able to crawl out of the ditch like a drunk friend trying to army crawl out of a snow bank

More in Automotive