The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was the ultimate pick-me-up for geeks and technophiles as January reared into view.
Undoubtedly one of the crazier ideas on show – and so far out there it made the aisles of VR goggles and talking toasters look mundane and quaint – was Hyundai’s Elevate ‘walking car’ concept. Described as the first Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV), the design blends technology found in electric cars and robots, allowing it to traverse terrain beyond the limitations of even the most capable off-road vehicle.
The concept is primarily designed to provide efficient, rapid, resilient transportation for disaster assistance, such as search-and-rescue and humanitarian aid missions. Wheels with hub-mounted electric motors are attached to extendable robotic legs, so the vehicle can drive, walk or climb over obstacles.
At CES, engineers used a working scale model to demonstrate the design in action. A full-size version could climb over obstacles 1.5 meters tall, or stride across a gap 1.5 meters wide. A variety of different bodies can be swapped on and off the modular chassis, depending on need.
“When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. 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,” said John Suh, Vice President and Head of Hyundai CRADLE, the carmaker’s venturing and open innovation business.
“This technology goes well beyond emergency situations. People living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA [wheelchair] 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. The possibilities are limitless.”
According to Hyundai, Elevate is the result of almost three years’ work in collaboration with industrial design consultancy, Sundberg-Frear, as part of Hyundai’s mission to create new ‘last mile’ mobility technologies and solutions. Elevate’s engineering features include: Robotic legs with five degrees of freedom plus in-wheel propulsion; Ability to walk in mammalian and reptilian style gaits for omnidirectional motion; Capable of climbing a 1.5-meter vertical wall; Step over a 1.5-meter gap; Non-back drivable motors enable the legs to lock in any position; and a modular electric vehicle platform.
“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,” said David Byron, design manager, Sundberg-Ferar. “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.”
Elevate is a product of Hyundai’s future mobility roadmap, showcased at CES 2019, highlighting the company’s strategy to create freedom in mobility for customers. Hyundai’s vision is based on three key areas: developments in ‘Open Innovation’, the company’s electric vehicle (EV) strategy, and its strategy to gain global leadership in connected mobility.
Under its updated EV strategy, Hyundai introduced EVs built on a new and dedicated platform named ‘E-GMP. The platform, currently under development, incorporates the world’s first integrated drive axle technology, IDA (Integrated Drive Axle), to provide a quieter and more stable driving experience.
“The dedicated electric vehicle models will offer customizable features, allowing drivers to alter the space and configuration of vehicles more efficiently than vehicles that are derived from traditional internal combustion architecture,” said Wonhong Cho, Executive Vice President of Hyundai Motor’s Customer and Marketing Division. “With our state-of-the-art ‘Style Set Free’ design concept, Hyundai Motor tries to provide a whole new experience to consumers with different lifestyles and needs, going beyond just the autonomous driving technology itself.”
Hyundai Motor also showcased technology that assists hearing-impaired drivers by replacing sounds with visual or touch-based cues, and using advanced sensor and artificial intelligence technology to help them ‘hear’ the traffic around them.
The technology employs two separate driving assist systems that work together simultaneously – the Audio-Visual Conversion (AVC) and Audio-Tactile Conversion (ATC). They use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze sound patterns outside the car, and then use vibrations of the steering wheel and pictograms displayed via the head-up display (HUD) to alert the driver and explain what the system can hear. The steering wheel is also equipped with multi-colored LEDs which indicate navigational information while driving.
For example, the technology could alert the driver of emergency vehicles by recognizing the sound of a siren, vibrating the wheel as an alert and displaying the appropriate pictogram on the HUD. It also translates data from vehicle sensors – such as when reversing – so the driver knows how far the car is from obstacles without relying on the warning chime.
Hyundai demonstrated the technology in a campaign video called ‘Quiet Taxi’. The campaign video, along with the technology itself, emphasizes the value of ‘freedom of mobility,’ demonstrating Hyundai’s efforts to enable the hearing-impaired to drive freely and safely using state-of-the-art innovative developments. As part of its goal, Hyundai also developed an application that enables communication between passengers and drivers who are hearing-impaired.
The documentary follows Daeho Lee, Seoul’s first ever designated hearing-impaired taxi driver, as he uses the driving assist technology.
Lee, a father of two children who recently began a new career as a taxi driver, had difficulties with hearing and had to rely mainly on his sight. This caused problems with other drivers when he could not hear the horns or sirens of surrounding vehicles. Additionally, he needed to constantly rely on his vision, which caused fatigue at a rate many times that of the average driver.
Continental meanwhile unveiled two prototypes of new smart wearables for the first time at CES, including a heated and actively-illuminated safety jacket, that features LED lights for enhanced safety at work. In addition to being safe, the prototypes also offer comfort with integrated heat function that saves energy for vehicle heating.
“The smart wearable concepts open up huge opportunities for the future and allow for interaction with vehicle electronics to be expanded. In the future, sensors in clothing could determine data such as humidity and temperature and, based on this, actuate the automatic climate control system via the vehicle electronics,” said Tobias Huber, who is responsible at Continental for developing smart, functional materials.
The newly designed prototype jacket comes with energy-saving LED lights and eye-catching conventional night reflectors for safety, ensuring good visibility at all times. The jacket, targeted at employees of courier companies, emergency services, utility services staff and truck drivers, has also been equipped with an optional heating function that protects its wearer against accidents and is activated automatically on leaving the vehicle.
A coil incorporated in the driver’s seat inductively charges the batteries which powers the LEDs and the integral heating system, ensuring that the jacket is always adequately charged. In addition, a flexible second coil in the jacket absorbs the power from the seat coil. Various material layers safeguard the garment’s washability and limit radiation of the magnetic field to the driver.
“The heating function is about far more than just improving comfort,” added Huber. “In delivery vehicles, the jacket heating system can reduce the cab energy consumption by up to 90%. That adds up to an extended range since the driver is heated rather than the cab.”
Electrically conductive materials are used to generate the desired warmth in the jacket without having to install a single millimetre of heating filament. This is thanks to a conductive, coatable polymer compound that is incorporated in the material by means of a printing process.
If electricity flows through the material, it is directly converted to heat. Consequently, the surface is fully warmed within seconds at the cost of a relatively low power input.