Hyundai used CES 2019 as the backdrop to debut its Elevate walking car concept. While it's primarily designed to give first responders an additional edge in rescuing people, it can also be used to enhance mobility options for all sorts of citizens.
The pictures make it pretty obvious how this car gained the ability to move less like a vehicle and more like a creepy robot animal -- while it does have traditional wheels on each corner, they're connected to the vehicle by way of mechanical "legs." Those legs have multiple axes of articulation, and since the electric motors that power the concept are in the wheels themselves, there are no powertrain linkages complicating matters.
According to Hyundai, the Elevate is capable of driving at highway speeds, but it can also allegedly climb a 5-foot wall, step over a 5-foot gap and have a track width up to 15 feet. So, it's basically an AT-AT from Star Wars that has, as Hyundai puts it, "both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits."
"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," said David Byron, design manager of Sundberg-Ferar, which worked on the concept, in a statement. "This is the future of vehicular mobility."
The Elevate rides on an electric "skateboard" platform, onto which the body is attached. This gives the concept a little extra flexibility, with bodies that can be removed and swapped out depending on the needs of the moment. To keep things efficient, the legs can cut power to its joints when acting like a normal vehicle.
Of course, first responders are the first group I think of when it comes to the Hyundai Elevate. Being able to better traverse rubble and other detritus, which could be the result of a natural disaster, could allow emergency personnel a better chance of saving as many people as possible. But there are other use cases, too -- Hyundai has an example image with a New York taxi livery, lifting itself up to make ingress easier for a person in a wheelchair. The sky's the limit, which I guess makes sense given the concept's name.
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