by Almas SadiqueMar 04, 2023
The incorporation of robotics and artificial intelligence is indubitably the next step in the evolution of automobiles, and Hyundai seems to be going all out in a bid to shape and secure the mobility of individuals in the future. The automobile company recently formed ‘New Horizons Studio’ to focus solely on the design and development of Ultimate Mobility Vehicles or UMVs, vehicles specifically designed to traverse impossible terrain. The studio “is expected to push the extreme limits of vehicle development, building vehicles to traverse off-road terrains with unprecedented mobility”.
The projects to be undertaken by the studio seek to fuel the innate human desire and need to explore new, unprecedented frontiers, and the vehicles it would subsequently develop would cater to customers who have an unconventional desire for travel to off-road and hitherto unreachable destinations by land. The UMVs as such provide a whole different meaning to off-roading, and stating that Hyundai’s new UMVs would have a niche clientele seems a bit of an understatement. However, when looked at through a widened scope, the applications that these vehicles are envisioned to have in the paramedic and defence arenas is second to none, truly seeming ready to usher in the future of automobiles. The studio’s inaugural project, Elevate, proves just that.
At the CES 2019 (Consumer Electronics Show), Hyundai first unveiled their concept UMV, Elevate, as part of their CRADLE (Centre for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences) programme. Hyundai’s CRADLE is responsible for developing technologies for mobility services, smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), eco-friendly energy, and robotics, and its concept for Elevate illustrates it as a quadruped vehicle with a pod like structure mounted on the top of its rolling chassis that comprises robotic legs and motors. The wheels of the vehicle essentially extend and double up as limbs, allowing the vehicle to “walk” over dubiously hard terrain, which is where UMVs draw their comparisons to the fictional “transformer” robots. The assembly provides the beast of a vehicle six degrees of freedom in mobility. Further, Hyundai Motor Group in its CES official statement claimed that Elevate could climb a wall as high as 1.5m, step over a gap in the ground, “walk” over diverse terrain, and achieve its track width. What’s remarkable is that it is able to achieve all of this while keeping its body and passengers completely level.
The visualisations of the vehicle provided here showcase its possible applications in the defence and health fields, and as a possible first responder in the dire situation of a natural disaster. In keeping with its primary function of improving mobility, it can even be called right at the doorstep of a specially-abled person without access to a ramp, allowing the wheelchair to roll right in after the vehicle levels itself. As stated, Elevate would be New Horizons Studio's maiden project, which it will develop further from the concepts presented at CES 2019, carried over from CRADLE, along with a number of other UMVs in the pipeline. The CES 2020 was, however, cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The team at the New Horizons Studio would be led by Vice President John Suh, who has earlier served with Hyundai Motor Group in various capacities, including founding and directing Hyundai Ventures, and leading its CRADLE division. Ernestine Fu would also be making the shift from CRADLE to New Horizons Studio as Director of Product Management. On his aspirations with the studio, Suh notes that they “aim to create the world’s first transformer-class vehicle, also known as the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle”. Hyundai’s sizeable, dedicated investment towards securing its place in the future of mobility and furthering the agenda of going where no automobile has gone earlier may just help it do so.