Strange-looking? Yes, but it just might work.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has become a platform for automakers to demonstrate potential future technologies. These include anything from advanced infotainment systems to concepts. There's sometimes even an official production car reveal. But Hyundai is bringing something rather unusual to this year's show, the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV), or more simply "Elevate."
So, what is it? Essentially, it's a first responder robot on wheels that can work its way through various natural disaster situations as a search-and-rescue tool. "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," said John Suh, Hyundai vice president.
"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."
The Elevate is a pure electric vehicle based on a modular EV platform which can accommodate various bodies for a number of missions. And yes, those are robotic legs, which have five degrees of freedom plus wheel hub propulsion motors.
Hyundai further says this design is capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, thus allowing it to move in any direction desired. To help preserve the battery, the legs fold up into an energy efficient drive-mode.
Power to the joints is cut and Elevate can then cruise at highway speeds. Some of its other capabilities include climbing a five-foot vertical wall and stepping over a five-foot gap. Turns out this project has been in the works for three years but Hyundai has not yet said whether it intends to green light this for production. If it ever does, chances are the UMV won't be available to the general public but rather emergency rescue services, militaries, or even taxi companies.