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Welcome to Project Elevate — an exploration of mobility and innovation that goes beyond the range of wheels.

Hyundai’s Ultimate Utility Vehicles (UMVs) look like they walked off a Star Wars set.

With wheels mounted at the end of long, articulated legs, they are able to drive and walk over inhospitable terrain where regular 4x4s fear to tread. These bizarre-looking “cars” are designed to carry people or payloads over remote locations and can operate as either four-wheel drive vehicles or four-legged walking machines.

Multi-joint legs, inspired by those of a grasshopper, give the “walking car” the ability to clamber over rocks, lift itself above flowing water and jump over gaps.

With their incredible mobility these electrically powered machines are designed to explore every corner of the planet, or even other planets for that matter. Hyundai conceives using these vehicles as Mars or Moon rovers.

Hyundai's 'walking' car. Picture: SUPPLIED
Hyundai's 'walking' car. Picture: SUPPLIED

Hyundai New Horizons Studio (NHS), a unit focused on the development of UMVs, is opening a new research, development and lab centre in Bozeman, Montana, in the US. NHS Bozeman is an estimated $20m (R320m) investment in Hyundai’s Progress for Humanity vision, building vehicles for future customers who need to travel over terrains that can’t be reached by conventional ground vehicles.

Hyundai said the applications for UMVs include natural resource management, disaster management, all-urban and rural logistics, construction, mining and space resource development.

The first project is a shape-shifting, Transformer-like vehicle called the Tiger, an acronym for transforming intelligent ground excursion robot. This automonous, uncrewed vehicle is designed to carry payloads over very challenging terrain, and was developed by Hyundai Motor’s New Horizons Studio in California, in partnership with Autodesk and Sundberg-Ferar.

Hyundai designed the Tiger to allow different bodies to be attached to the chassis for unique applications, such as cargo delivery or surveillance in locations not suitable for humans.

The other project is the two-seater crewed Elevate, which could be used as a disaster relief machine for getting into devastated areas and bringing injured people out. Elevate could also offer wheelchair users an easier route to transport by “climbing” the steps to a house or building.

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