A walking concept car with wheels mounted on robotic legs offers a glimpse of the future of disaster response according to its developer.
Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Hyundai’s so-called Elevate vehicle, claimed to be the first ever car with moveable legs, borrows technologies from the worlds of robotics and electric vehicles to create a vehicle that can drive, walk and even climb across some of the most rugged terrain.
“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,” said John Suh, Vice President and Head of Hyundai’s CRADLE robotics research division. “Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.”
The concept car, which can apparently climb a five-foot wall and step over a five-foot gap while keeping its body and passengers completely level, is based on a modular EV platform with the capability to switch out different bodies for specific situations.
The robotic leg architecture has five degrees of freedom plus wheel hub propulsion motors and is enabled by the latest in electric actuator technology. This design is claimed to be uniquely capable of mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction.
The legs also fold up into a stowed drive-mode, where power to the joints is cut, and the use of an integrated passive suspension system maximises battery efficiency. This allows Elevate to drive at highway speeds just like any other vehicle.
“This technology goes well beyond emergency situations,” added Suh. “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.”