BRAND Technology with a human heart
- WORDS & PHOTOS
- THE ECONOMIST
2 minutes read
Hyundai is looking away beyond a chassis, four wheels and a combustion engine, electric motor or hydrogen fuel cell. Indeed, the company is already looking at even more radical versions of transportation to change the way we move for the better.
Prototype of Elevate presented at CES 2019.
CRADLE is Hyundai’s hub for start-up collaboration, venture capital, and technical and conceptual innovation and development. Its offices in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Berlin and Beijing are a hotbed for start-ups specialising in everything from artificial intuition and image sensors to public transport apps and facial and speech recognition. The CRADLE team asked themselves: “What would a vehicle be like if it could walk—and, more importantly, would anyone benefit?”
The resulting concept, created in conjunction with industrial design firm Sundberg-Ferar, is called Elevate.
Popularly known as the “walking car”, it pushes the boundaries of what we currently call a vehicle. Complex multi-joint legs, inspired by those of a grasshopper, give this “walking car” the ability to climb steps, lift itself above flowing water or even jump over gaps.
People living with disabilities worldwide could hail Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door and allow their wheelchair to roll right in.
As the Hyundai research team examined the potential use cases for Elevate, they realised that it could deliver the company’s vision of a future where people had freedom of mobility. Elevate could play a role in rural exploration, construction or even disaster relief, by allowing rescue teams to reach areas where traditional roads have been compromised. It could also offer wheelchair users an easier route to transport by “climbing” the steps to a house or building.
Mobility is more than the car.
The Elevate vehicle is a physical expression of freedom of mobility— a concept that Hyundai believes should be a universal right. For example, even physical movement can be a challenge for some people. To address this, the firm is developing its wearable H-MEX exoskeletons. Aimed at helping paraplegics and elderly people, the robotic medical device can support up to 40kg of the wearer’s weight and can potentially grant movement to those with spinal injuries or muscle issues.
Chi says that focusing on the mobility of the human body allows Hyundai to consider a variety of life experiences and situations where mobility—or the lack of it—can have an impact. “If an elderly woman has difficulty reaching the nearest bus stop, it may discourage her from visiting the doctor regularly until she becomes seriously ill,” he says.
It may seem counterintuitive that Hyundai, traditionally a carmaking company, is experimenting with and developing these new solutions. However, Chi argues it is better for Hyundai to start thinking in new ways, because the market will not wait for it to do so. “In the future,” he says, “people will prefer more diverse and practical mobility solutions than just buying a car, so we must actively develop transportation solutions for the future, not the past.”
Freedom can be experienced individually or collectively, but it is always embedded in our shared cultural experience. Similarly, people will always need to travel, but how they do so is always evolving. A range of factors—climactic, environmental, social and financial—are affecting how humanity views mobility, and Hyundai understands that it needs to anticipate and meet these demands. “The need for mobility is here to stay. What will change is vehicle ownership—from individuals to service providers,” says Chi.
Freedom can be experienced individually or collectively, but it is always embedded in our shared cultural experience.