Automotive

Hyundai's Elevate robotic walking car steps out of the shadows

Hyundai's Elevate robotic walk...
The articulated legs of the Elevate allow it to stand up and walk over obstacles that would chew regular off-road vehicles to pieces
The articulated legs of the Elevate allow it to stand up and walk over obstacles that would chew regular off-road vehicles to pieces
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When the Elevate's legs compact down, it drives like a regular car at highway speeds, relying on a passive suspension system to eat up bumps
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When the Elevate's legs compact down, it drives like a regular car at highway speeds, relying on a passive suspension system to eat up bumps
The articulated legs of the Elevate allow it to stand up and walk over obstacles that would chew regular off-road vehicles to pieces
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The articulated legs of the Elevate allow it to stand up and walk over obstacles that would chew regular off-road vehicles to pieces
In addition to emergency response, Hyundai sees the Elevate finding use as a taxi for the disabled
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In addition to emergency response, Hyundai sees the Elevate finding use as a taxi for the disabled
We're not sure you're likely to slide off the road in the Elevate, but if you do, simply walk out of the snowbank 
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We're not sure you're likely to slide off the road in the Elevate, but if you do, simply walk out of the snowbank 
Hyundai revealed the Elevate at CES 2019
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Hyundai revealed the Elevate at CES 2019
We reckon the Elevate could be used for high-flying fun, too
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We reckon the Elevate could be used for high-flying fun, too
Integrated springs come into play when the legs fold up and the actuated joints are cut off from the battery
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Integrated springs come into play when the legs fold up and the actuated joints are cut off from the battery
Each wheel is powered by an electric hub motor
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Each wheel is powered by an electric hub motor
The idea of the Elevate is to get responders into the heart of the disaster zone
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The idea of the Elevate is to get responders into the heart of the disaster zone
The interior and body would vary based upon specific use
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The interior and body would vary based upon specific use
Hyundai Elevate concept
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Hyundai Elevate concept
Hyundai Elevate concept
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Hyundai Elevate concept
The cradle chassis with wheeled legs could accept various body styles
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The cradle chassis with wheeled legs could accept various body styles
Hyundai Elevate scale model
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Hyundai Elevate scale model
Hyundai Elevate concept
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Hyundai Elevate concept

Imagine if an emergency vehicle could not only bring the team of responders to the edge of the disaster zone but actually step right in, striding over top flaming rubble to get responders exactly where they need to be. Forget last mile, that's last 100 yards. And that's the all-new Hyundai Elevate concept, moving through the world on fully articulated wheeled legs that let it climb vertical walls, hop over crevasses, crawl like a reptile and quietly cruise the highway on a sunny day.

Developed in a partnership between Hyundai's CRADLE disruptive innovations incubator and Detroit product innovation studio Sundberg-Ferar, the Elevate blends the worlds of robotic and automotive design to become an "ultimate mobility vehicle" (UMV). The concept has been in the works for well over two years and was imagined specifically with emergency response in mind.

"When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field," explains John Suh, Hyundai vice president. "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."

Hyundai Elevate concept
Hyundai Elevate concept

In order to achieve this level of mobile autonomy, the Elevate leaves behind conventions like axles and suspension wishbones, replacing them with individually powered wheels mounted to robotic legs. Each leg includes five degrees of movement via integrated vertical and horizontal hip joints, a knee joint, an ankle joint and a rotational steering joint that spins the wheel 360 degrees around a vertical axis. Hub motors in the wheels team to provide propulsive power.

During normal highway driving, the legs compact inward toward the body, allowing the Elevate to drive along like any electric car. A passive suspension system takes over cushioning in this mode, and power to the leg joint actuators is cut to improve range and efficiency.

When the Elevate's legs compact down, it drives like a regular car at highway speeds, relying on a passive suspension system to eat up bumps
When the Elevate's legs compact down, it drives like a regular car at highway speeds, relying on a passive suspension system to eat up bumps

When flat ground gives way to ultra-bumpy rock or rubble, the Elevate can use the height and power of its legs to react, standing tall and clearing large obstacles, crawling along like a reptile, climbing walls up to 5 feet (1.5 m) high, stepping over holes up to 5 feet across or spreading its track to a full 15 feet (4.6 m). In this way, the driver can negotiate terrain that would be deemed impassable for any other auto, defeating obstacles like large boulders, deep snow and steep hills, all while the vehicle body stays completely level.

Suddenly, vehicles like the Jeep Gladiator and Action Mobil Pure Zetros don't look quite so "go anywhere" as they used to.

The drive motors and electric actuators powering the Elevate are wired to a 66-kWh battery pack. Project engineers arrived at the battery size by running simulations of the Rubicon Trail, and determining the onboard battery capacity required to power the leg articulation and propulsion involved in traveling the entirety of the rugged 22-mile (35-km) American trail.

Emergency response remains a major driver behind the design, but it's not the only use Hyundai and Sundberg-Ferar have come up with. In fact, the Elevate is modular, the legged electric chassis able to accept various body types for different use cases.

In addition to emergency response, Hyundai sees the Elevate finding use as a taxi for the disabled
In addition to emergency response, Hyundai sees the Elevate finding use as a taxi for the disabled

"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," Suh gives as another example.

Hyundai debuted the Elevate concept at CES 2019 on Tuesday. You won't be seeing it walking past your living room window just yet, but you can have a closer look in the video below.

Project Elevate | Hyundai

Source: Hyundai and Sundberg-Ferar

15 comments
TrevorX
Optimus Prime 1.0, awesome ....
paul314
What's the weight and weight distribution on this thing? Because one of the things about rubble fields is that they're generally not terribly stable. And one of the things about old houses with high front stairs is that they don't like multi-ton point loads.
PAV
I hope boston dynamics robot dog makers can take notice of the value of wheels.
ei3io
The wheels could be fitted with tracks like 4x4s use for softer surfaces or maybe just multiple wheels per leg,,, Regardless the robot extension to anything living and dead will occur as they are logically & economically needed. The all terrain needs of vehicles of course will be GREATLY augmented by what can hover above and then fly fast for all situations on the ground. A flying vehicle could carry smaller surface crawlers like this to rescue or deliver whatever wherever whenever. Flight will rule but crawling will never become obsolete.
Daishi
@PAV It makes me happy to see more people start to see that legged robots are probably not the answer. In the DARPA robotics challenge the team that won (South Korea's DRC-HUBO) modified their bot to be able to kneel onto a set of wheels and I wouldn't be surprised if Hyundai took some inspiration from that design. It's frustrating that it has taken 30 years of dead ends in legged robots for people to start to see there are more innovative ways to solve problems using wheels that are more efficient and less complex. Yes Boston dynamics robots are (mostly) mobile but with sufficient thrust pigs just fine too. It's refreshing to see out of the box thinking like this and I don't think we have really even scratched the surface on the possible approaches to wheeled robotic mobility. We have had the wrong people looking at this problem for a long time. I think I could come up with a handful of wheeled mobility platforms that would climb stairs with less cost and complexity than the robots from Boston Dynamics. I hope the winning DARPA competition team and this render from Hyundai inspire other people to do the same. Many obstacles (including stairs) could be tackled just by increasing wheel diameter. Anyone who doesn't feel like wheels are already well suited for traversing obstacles has never spent 5 minutes on youtube watching jeep rock climbing videos. Wheels are efficient, reliable, have few moving parts, and cheap. Anything not drastically more mobile has solved absolutely nothing. Electric motors in the wheel reduce the need for a mechanical drive shaft allowing innovations like this one. Anyone not exploring that path is on the wrong path.
Daishi
@ei3io in response to flight being the answer I recommend looking into "the efficiency of locomotion". Flight uses significantly more energy per kg moved over distance than automobiles and rolling vehicles. Small maneuverable aircraft like VTOL and helicopters are much less efficient than fixed wing aircraft. Compare man vs man on bicycle and it's easy to see legged mobility is far from the answer too. Trains and electric bicycles are so far the most efficient forms of transportation humanity has been able to create. Efficiency is a necessary goal and that goal requires wheeled mobility.
michael_dowling
How come there isn't a video of the real thing?
Joshua Tulberg
Chainlink 4x4 revisited
Derek Howe
PAV - Check out their robot called "Handle".
HoppyHopkins
Just what I need, with this I will never be snowed in again