Is Hyundai Really Trying to Make Transformers?

I think it is safe to say that the future is here. The electric car is making incredible progress, manufacturers are actually planning to build flying cars, and now Hyundai wants to make four-legged crab-like vehicles the likes of which we have never seen before. These new Hyundai concepts are almost as wild as alien robots from outer space.

Hyundai Motor Group announced on Monday the formation of the New Horizons Studio. This team will be focused on new technologies and innovations for automobiles, specifically focused on something called Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs), including the concept vehicle Hyundai Elevate. 

What exactly is a UMV?

Artist rendering of the Hyundai Elevate concept
Artist rendering of the Hyundai Elevate concept | Hyundai Motor Group

Frankly, it looks closer to War of the Worlds than it does anything car-related. It appears that the UMVs will have wheels like normal, but will also be able to grow legs and literally walk through any terrain or over any obstacle. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, well, Hyundai’s Vice President, John Suh, spoke directly about the new project.

Mr. Suh will be running the New Horizons Studio and said, “We aim to create the world’s first transformer-class vehicle, also known as the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle.”

Transformer-class? Did he just say Transformer? 

Hyundai Elevate Concept
Hyundai Elevate Concept | Hyundai Motor Group

We are likely still a long way out from having Optimus Prime come through when we need help, but the Hyundai Elevate is a decisive first step. The New Horizons Studio plans first to develop the Elevate concept from the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. The plan so far is, the Elevate will have four wheels as would be expected for a car, but those wheels will be at the end of four extendable legs that will unfold to offer unfettered access to any previously unreachable location for most vehicles. 

Applications for the Hyundai Elevate

The Elevate would be an invaluable tool for emergency and first-responder teams after natural disasters made a road untraversable or washed away entirely from earthquakes or hurricanes. Hyundai also suggests that this concept could be invaluable to people who use wheelchairs or struggle with limited mobility by eliminating difficulty with stairs by climbing stairs for people. 

Hyundai Elevate Concept Taxi
Hyundai Elevate Concept Taxi | Hyundai Motor Group

The folks at Hyundai also say that joining John Suh on the New Horizons team is Dr. Ernestine Fu. Dr. Fu, who was previously a leading researcher on, human operator and autonomous vehicle interactions at Stanford University’s Volkswagen Automotive Innovations Lab, will act as Director of Product Management.

The leadership horsepower on the New Horizons Studio team seems to suggest that Hyundai is not playing games. These folks are trying to bring transformers into the world. This concept seems like a strong first step.

Concept versus reality

A model of Hyundai's planned air taxi will be on display at the CES technology fair.
Artist rendering of flying Hyundai concept| Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

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Companies can promise the moon and stars in a concept when we all understand that reality will often be a much less extreme version of the vehicle or nothing at all. But that doesn’t stop the excitement for at least the possibility of innovation like this. Hyundai is pushing the boundaries here, and personally, I want to see how far they can go.