The Consumer Electronics Show is always good for some crazy ideas and images, and this may be among the craziest: the Hyundai Elevate concept car. It's designed to function like any other car until it needs to go where most vehicles can't. That's when it just stands up and walks.
Hyundai says it designed it for first responders who need to access difficult terrain. (Think mountains, forests, or other rock-strewn landscapes that are inaccessible to most terrestrial vehicles.) Electrically powered and modular so it can swap vehicle bodies for a variety of use cases, the South Korean automaker is calling it an “Ultimate Mobility Vehicle.”
The image of an Elevate with the Red Cross symbol on the side illustrates as much as the taxi concept (see below) just how versatile this kind of vehicle could be. Or how versatile Hyundai believes it could be.
Here's part of Hyundai's description of the mechanics behind this bizarre and slightly spooky feature:
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 maximizes battery efficiency. This allows Elevate to drive at highway speeds just like any other vehicle. But no other can climb a five foot wall, step over a five foot gap, walk over diverse terrain, and achieve a 15 foot wide track width, all while keeping its body and passengers completely level...
Hyundai goes on to say that combining wheels and legs in one vehicle leads to extra mobility, enhanced walking speed, and "unique dynamic driving postures," whatever that means.
The image above may make some think of little rovers exploring distant planets, and The Verge reports that Hyundai wants it that way, believe it could "take people where no car has been before." So, you could conceivably drive this to the space port, into the rocket, fly to the Moon or Mars, and roll onto the surface of another planet for a little Sunday drive.
While the CGI animation leaves a strong impression, a proof-of-concept video of Hyundai's tiny real-world mock-up doesn't necessarily knock your socks off. It looks like a little robot lizard.
Unlike many vehicle concepts we see, it's pretty easy to get why this one might have multiple practical applications—should it work as intended. It would be a huge improvement over lift vans for the disabled—the entire car lifts—and its ability to manage surfaces that might destroy a regular car.
Still, it might be harder to get used to seeing the Elevate than something like a flying car, there's something so odd about it.
Also, owners will probably get really tired of all the Star Wars jokes.