Elevate can speed down the highway like any other car or sprout robotic legs and walk or climb over diverse terrain. “I like to call it the ultimate mobility vehicle because it can go into many different places that a typical four-wheel vehicle cannot,” says John Suh, vice president, Hyundai Motor Group. He imagines the futuristic-looking vehicle being used by first responders in rescue situations, as well as to help transport people with mobility issues. Hyundai, in partnership with the design studio Sundberg-Ferar, used generative-design technology to make the concept car more lightweight and durable. Watch the video to see how Elevate takes a giant step toward the future of mobility.
John Suh, Vice President, Hyundai Motor Group: Elevate is a unique vehicle. I like to call it the ultimate mobility vehicle because it can go into many different places that a typical four-wheel vehicle cannot—or it would be very difficult for it to—go into.
David Byron, Manager, Design + Innovation Strategy, Sundberg-Ferar: Elevate is a car that can walk. And the question, “Why would you need a car that can walk?” can be answered by the idea that when a vehicle currently reaches its limitation, it’s because the suspension and the wheels have met their match, and it can no longer traverse an obstacle.
Suh: When we were looking at this combination of robotics on a car, we did what I might call prior-art research or market research. One interesting thing that we found in that research was the idea that even the most capable of four-wheel, off-road vehicles that are designed for such purposes can get stuck.
Byron: We thought if a vehicle could actually come to the person and stand up or crawl, position itself at their front door, then they could just wheel right out their front door, get into the vehicle; they could walk back down to their driveway or the street and then continue on.
Suh: Things like natural disasters, things in which there are sometimes purposeful barriers put in place to prevent vehicle traffic. So we saw these little instances, use cases, that we thought, “Yeah, having legs could be very useful and provide a form of mobility that is not available today.”
Byron: So in the beginning of the conversations, we decided that we really needed to take a step back from racing into the design and the exciting part of the engineering and just look at this from a use-case perspective. Is there a value for this? Because if there’s no value to the end consumer, if there’s no value to humanity, it would just be a lot of wasted engineering and design effort.
Suh: What technologies can we use or techniques can we use to make lightweight seating that is not only lightweight but also very durable and suitable for the mission? When I first heard about generative design, my initial thought was, “Oh, okay, I guess the engineer is no longer needed, because the computer is going to go through many, many design iterations faster than any one person and do it in a way that’s not intuitive because the geometry is … I’ll call it ‘nonlinear.’”
Byron: As a car designer, the part that excites me about generative design is the change in my mental focus from subtractive methods to this “growing” mentality. I’m growing CAD data, and I know that, in the end, it might still be a mixture of additive and subtractive manufacturing methods, but it’s a different way of seeing a sculpture created in CAD.
Suh: What I’m excited about is the idea that we can work on a new vehicle platform that one day could be in the area of public service or the area of either public safety or in search-and-rescue, because I think there are a lot of times when different situations—natural disasters—where people need help, and I think, whereas yes, there are vehicles and ways of getting to people, but I really believe that the product version of Elevate one day can be used to be of service to the people that really need help. And I believe that when you know that someone’s going to come help you if you’re in trouble, that knowledge gives you hope. So I’m looking forward to the day that we can turn Elevate from the concept it is today to the experimental prototype of the future, to the product that can be out there in the field helping people.