In emergency conditions, the transportation options for rescue operations are limited. Rubble and debris remaining in the aftermath of a catastrophic event often lead recovery crews to walk or climb to wherever they’re ultimately needed, slowing efforts during time-sensitive situations. After a three year development process, Hyundai has now revealed a tool to help these types of scenarios at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: a small rolling car that transforms into a walking car called Elevate.
This car-robot hybrid looks a bit like a rover you’d expect to see on Mars or the Moon, only the legs have a spider-like quality to them, indicating flexibility over rigidity. The vehicle overall has a small body that looks somewhat like an SUV cabin with a “leggy” lower half when raised for its non-road traveling mode. The body can be removed and exchanged as needed for different operations, and the bottom walking/rolling half can be operated independently.
Elevate has two walking modes to help its mobility across nearly any terrain. First, “reptilian mode”, where the vehicle spreads its robotic legs wide and moves similar to a lizard. Second, “mammalian mode”, where the legs operate underneath the body similar to a lion, tiger, bear, etc. The walking car also boasts the ability to go in any direction, step over a five-foot gap, and climb over a five-foot wall. Oh, and it’s still a car, so normal/quick road driving is part of the package deal as well.
Along with search and rescue missions, Hyundai has proposed Elevate as a helpful tool for the disabled. In areas where a wheelchair ramp isn’t available, for example, an Elevate owned by a local government could be hailed to assist, much like a taxi. The disabled person would be transported from their home all the way to the door of their destination.
While a full version of the walking car has not yet been produced, the concept has been proven in models at one-fifth of scale. There are also no immediate plans to produce the vehicle, according to Hyundai. However, even at a the smaller robotic level, the development efforts could be useful in a market scenario. Robotic solutions for difficult terrains and emergency operations are frequently sought after and several are under development. Also, there’s a big population of people and companies looking at multiplanetary habitation/exploration where a technology like Elevate would be desired in plenty of scenarios.
The Elevate concept comes from Hyundai Cradle, the car manufacturer’s center for robotic-augmented design in living experiences. According to the company’s website, they work with a dedicated portfolio of startups to navigate the regulatory process and seize on new opportunities to go to market. In other words, they’re a venture capital company working to develop innovations in robotic living.
To see the Elevate in action on an animated and miniature scale, watch the below videos: