- a small pod with four wheels on extendable legs, the tiger x-1 comes from hyundai’s forward-thinking new horizons studio and could be used as a science or rescue vehicle someday.
- the tiger is based on hyundai’s concept vehicle from ces 2019, which was a walking "ultimate mobility vehicle" that could carry people.
- it's just an outlandish concept today, but hyundai could start building beta prototypes for partners to test as early as 2023.
hyundai's latest effort in its work to become less of a car company and more of a "smart mobility solution provider" has four legs, four wheels, and a friendly flying companion. say hello to the tiger x-1.
tiger stands for transforming intelligent ground excursion robot, and the x-1 denotes its experimental status. this is without a doubt a conceptual experiment, for now, and if parts of the design look familiar, that’s because the tiger's modular platform has more than a few elements in common with hyundai's elevate walking car concept from ces 2019. while elevate was an "ultimate mobility vehicle" that was meant to be operated by a person inside the pod, the tiger is smaller, self-driving, and can't carry people. like elevate, the tiger can extend its four legs and rotate its wheels to give it the ability to move in any direction and walk over complex terrain. this capability "[exceeds] the limits of even the most capable off-road vehicles," said john suh, vice president and founding director of new horizons studio.
new horizons studio started in 2020 as a way for hyundai to explore unusual mobility efforts with a focus on providing options for customers who need to move in "unconventional and off-road terrain, including places where vehicles have never roamed before," hyundai said. suh said the new horizons studio team, working in partnership with autodesk and the detroit-based studio sundberg-ferar, took the elevate and adapted it to be used autonomously for carrying goods or sensors.
the potential uses for a vehicle like tiger fit the new horizons name incredibly well. suh said a vehicle like this could be used on the moon or to explore other planets. on earth, a vehicle like tiger could be used to deliver products to people in cities, medicine, or food to people in remote areas after a disaster or simply as a mobile science platform in places that are difficult for humans to reach. if tiger's wheeled legs can't get it all the way to its destination, the robot can be deployed from an unmanned aerial vehicle. this flying drone can even recharge tiger's batteries, or vice versa, depending upon what's needed in any given situation.
while tiger is wildly different from today's vehicles and intended to be used on difficult terrain, suh told car and driver that his team is thinking about ways to make tiger a reliable, real vehicle. this starts by making the complex components as simple as possible. the non-pneumatic tires can't get flat, for example, and the vehicle's design is symmetric on two axes, meaning the four corners are repeated. without a front or a back, manufacturing tiger would mean building the same parts over and over, which will help with reliability and possible repairs.
"obviously, this vehicle is more complicated than a regular four-wheel-drive car," suh said. "our ideal, and i don't know if it's possible, is to use a single type of electric motor so that every motor in the leg will be identical so we can minimize the complexities of engineering different types and we can really hone in on getting a robust and reliable actuator."
eye on a production tiger?
planning for reliability shows hyundai may actually build a tiger-like vehicle in the future. suh wouldn't say exactly when that might happen but did say his team will spend the next two years working on solving some of the concept's core technical problems, and hyundai could build beta vehicles for partners to test in the real world in 2023 and 2024. an actual production version could follow in about five years, he said.
"our vision and goal is to produce product, and therefore it's much more than a science project," suh said. "i would not be offended if people call it that right now because, in fact, we are trying something new. it has the flavor of a science project, but our great desire right now is to make it a product one day."