The Walking Car Will Change Everything
At what point does a car cease to be a car?
For many it’s the second four wheels leave the ground, hence the somewhat mixed response to the Pal-V. However, what if the vehicle sprouts legs and begins roaming roads?
A walking car may sound rooted in science fiction but is now, unbelievably, a distinct possibility. Hyundai hope to prove as much.
For four years they’ve been hard at work imagining what they proudly proclaim to be the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle.
Paraded at last year’s Consumer Electronic Show; most appreciated the concept - both theoretical and literal (albeit 1/18th of the scale)– but dismissed the plausibility entirely. Understandably perhaps.
A little over 18 months later however, it’s been announced the walking car is destined for production and not the cinema kind. It also has a new name...
Having teamed-up with revered innovators Sundberg-Ferar for the initial design, Hyundai have now tasked their own New Horizons Studio division with delivering the real thing.
As you read this, a collection of the world’s best engineers are beavering away in Silicon Valley in a bid to redefine the driving experience as we know it.
If your minds eye is picturing a Transformers-like robot you’re not far wrong.
That’s because Elevate – as it’s now known - will encompass fully blown electronic legs, only with wheels as opposed to feet.
Powered by an electric motor, it will boast four inter-changeable body types courtesy of a modular EV platform. Driving modes will vary depending on the environment and terrain.
Traditionalists can rest assured there will be an option to stow the legs away and enjoy what’s considered a standard drive. If such a thing exists in this behemoth.
Elevate will be capable of scaling 5-foot walls and hurdling 5-foot gaps, all at speeds of 3mph. Drivers – and we do use that term loosely - will even be able to select a preferred gait, with mammalian and reptilian options available.
Through all of this, passengers will remain completely level, as if playing a video game.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Vice President Dr John Suh, who heads this the most adventurous of developments, is a film buff blinded by a love of Star Wars. You could be right, but his is a worthwhile cause all the same.
Indeed, one of the defining features of Elevate and those that follow in its path will be an ability to assist in first response scenarios. This is why its success matters.
Whereas regular vehicles are restricted in how close they can get to aftermath of national disaster, the walking car will know no such boundaries.
Hyundai envisage the vehicle entering zones decimated by earthquakes, floods, forest fires and hurricanes in search of survivors.
Designed to tackle and overcome any terrain, it could literally save lives.
Suh outlined his vision during the aforementioned CES event.
"When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field”, he said. “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."
Sunberg-Ferar’s design manager, David Byron, elaborated further.
“By combining the power of robotics with Hyundai’s latest EV technology, Elevate has the ability to take people where no car has been before, and redefine our perception of vehicular freedom. Imagine a car stranded in a snow ditch just 10 feet off the highway being able to walk or climb over the treacherous terrain, back to the road potentially saving its injured passengers – this is the future of vehicular mobility.”
It’s not just life or death scenarios where Elevate will come into its own. Others set to benefit include wheelchair users, for whom the walking car can approach the home and lower itself into position, thus simplifying access.
Beyond the Range of Wheels
News the automakers have set to work on Elevate has excited hordes of motoring and movie fans alike. No timeframe has yet been set for a working prototype and given the magnitude of the project; patience may be required here.
It’s certainly been a busy period for the Korean manufacturer, who is invested both emotionally and financially in its wider “Beyond the Range of Wheels” initiative. The latest Elevate announcement follows hot on the heels of unveiling a partnership with Uber, to create a no less ambitious Air Taxi called the S-A1.
Reaching for the skies, this 5-seater model is expected to climb between 1,000 and 2,000 feet whilst cruising at a speed of 200mph. A 60-mile range is quite deliberate – exceeding most Uber journeys – as are built-in parachutes should the worse happen. That is – thankfully – highly unlikely as redundant rotors should prevent a crash were the engine to conk out.
Come time to land, the S-A1 will revert to a VTOL mode and presumably home in on rooftops seeing as runways are in short supply.
Unlike Elevate, this concept has a working timeline. We could conceivably be flying to the supermarket, cinema and football by 2023. Some of us anyway.
Flying cars are now old hat though. It’s the walking car that’s captured imaginations, not least with fans of the Transformers franchise.
There will remain things to iron out, not least protocol in traffic jams, but like the brains behind the operation, petrolheads are beginning to think ‘beyond the range of wheels.