Our vision of the future often involves flying cars, but what if it also included walking vehicles? Believe it or not, the Korean automaker Hyundai is developing a four-wheeled automobile that can extend its wheels into four legs. As a result, it can move by crawling, redefining the term “four-wheel drive.”
You probably aren’t thinking of heading to your office in a galloping car. However, the company believes it has unique applications unavailable in wheeled vehicles. For example, one of its execs believes it could bring a new class of rescue vehicles. Moreover, the ambitious project could expand handicapped access to automobiles.
Let’s elaborate on Hyundai’s walking car and the inspiration behind it. Later, I will discuss other amazing ways we’re redefining transportation.
Why create a walking car?
In January 2020, TechRadar said Hyundai unveiled its concept for crawling automobiles called Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs). The company dubbed the project Hyundai Elevate, but the hype quickly faded.
Nevertheless, Vice President Dr. John Suh wanted to continue the bold invention. He described the Elevate concept as “the world’s first transformer-class vehicle.”
It cruises the streets like a regular electric vehicle but can rise on robotic legs and walk across tough terrain. “The original idea actually came from the top,” says Suh.
“After a discussion about how most of the land and usage in the US is unpaved, we talked about a vehicle that could effectively walk, and that’s how the idea was generated,” Suh explains.
TechRadar asked Suh about the walking car’s real-world applications. In response, he said it will cater to a diverse customer base. “The idea is that our concepts can reach places typical 4×4 vehicles cannot,” he says.
“As well as being able to roll on standard wheels and tires, we have also developed adaptive high range-of-motion suspension, or AHROMS for short, that uses robotics technology to overcome obstacles,” the VP added.
If Hyundai Elevate can walk on all fours while remaining stable, it could become an effective rescue vehicle. For example, an earthquake would deform most roads, so this vehicle could reach survivors impassable with wheels.
Hyundai could deploy smaller UMVs to carry a squad’s equipment across jagged terrain. Also, it could help handicapped persons enter and exit vehicles safely.
“Imagine an autonomous taxi that could pull up right to your door, even if you lived on the first floor, and a wheelchair user could enter without issue,” Suh stated.
However, he and his team have not confirmed an exact release date for their project. Suh expects faster progress over “the next three years.”
From walking to soaring the skies
If walking cars aren’t your style, how about cruising the skies to your next date? For $299,999, you could fly over traffic and touch the clouds in the world’s first flying car.
On June 25, 2023, Alef Aeronautics announced its Model A is the first flying vehicle to receive legal approval from the US government. The company conceptualized this project in 2015.
That was the year when Marty McFly traveled through time in the classic sci-fi flick “Back to the Future.” A year later, the firm built a prototype to fit specific requirements.
I discussed in a previous article these included driving like an ordinary car, taking off vertically, and keeping costs down. Also, Alef Aeronautics showed its electric propulsion system to Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and one of Tesla’s first investors.
Draper Associates Fund V allocated $3 million in seed money to kickstart the program. In October 2022, Alef Aeronautics unveiled its Model A as the world’s first flying car.
It runs on electricity with real street driving and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) abilities. The EV firm says the Model A has a flight range of 110 miles and a 200-mile driving range.