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Last week Hyundai released some teaser material of its walking Elevate concept, created to negotiate "treacherous" areas a conventional wheeled vehicle would struggle to get ahead.

"This technology goes well beyond emergency situations".

Dubbed by Hyundai as the "Ultimate Mobility Vehicle", Elevate runs on a modular electric vehicle platform and has the capability to switch out different bodies for specific situations. The legs, which can lock in any position, even fold up under the body, so on roads the Elevate can drive along on its wheels like a normal vehicle.

Forward-looking: Hyundai's walking vehicle concept is being marketed to first responders but its technology could go well beyond emergency situations. "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. This means it can function like a traditional vehicle, capable of traveling at highway speeds with passive suspension.

But bring on the impossible terrain and those robotic legs with five degrees of freedom come into play, making it capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction, with the wheels also rolling when necessary. For example, people living with disabilities that don't have access to a ramp could hail an Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow a wheelchair to roll right in. Not compared to Hyundai's CES concept, anyway.

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The manufacturer claims the model can climb a five-foot wall and step over a gap of the same distance - all while keeping the passengers level. "Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete", Suh said.

Hyundai says it showcases technology that will be able to "take people where no vehicle has been before".

"Imagine a auto stranded in a snow ditch just 3 metres 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".

Hyundai has been working with Michigan-based industrial design firm Sundberg-Ferar on the project for three years, but has not yet built a full-size working prototype, so it is likely still years away from possibly entering production.


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