Hyundai Unveils Autonomous Four-Legged Walking Car

Transportable by UAV, the Tiger X-1 concept can travel through jungles, caves, and even space terrain.
Chris Young
Hyundai Tiger X-1Hyundai

Hyundai's crazy Elevate walking car concept, unveiled in 2019, may be more than just a publicity stunt after all.

With the unveiling of Hyundai's Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot Experiment, Tiger X-1 for short, it seems the Korean automaker is making serious efforts to bring the four-legged car concept to market, CNET writes.

A variation on the 2019 model, Tiger X-1 is transportable by UAV and can traverse the harshest terrains — including the surface of the Moon.

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Hyundai's Tiger X-1 is envisioned as an uncrewed explorer of the harshest terrains. Source: Hyundai

In December of last year, Hyundai bought a $1.1 billion majority stake in Boston Dynamics, showcasing its belief that robotics will play a large role in the future of mobility.

Unveiled on Tuesday, Feb. 10, The Tiger concept was devised before the Boston Dynamics acquisition.

Four-legged walking vehicle for harsh environments

Much like the Elevate concept, the Tiger X-1 transforms from an electric four-wheel drive into a four-legged walking car, allowing it to traverse uneven terrain that would be inaccessible to a normal vehicle.

Unlike Elevate, the Tiger is an uncrewed, autonomous vehicle designed to carry payloads, such as emergency aid packages, over harshest terrains without human intervention.

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The Tiger X-1's leg-wheel articulation keeps the vehicle's payload level. Source: Hyundai

Including Tiger's wheel motors, there are a total of 28 motors and 28 position sensors between the X-1's four legs.

As a Hyundai press release explains, "leg-wheel articulation enables TIGER to tackle a range of extreme situations while keeping payloads more level than a typical ground vehicle."

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28 position sensors are included in Tiger X-1's legs for precise placement. Source: Hyundai

This means that when the vehicle is traveling over even terrain it uses its wheels in the typical fashion; however, if the terrain becomes uneven, or an obstacle gets in the way, the vehicle's legs extend allowing it to perform a combination of walking and driving, as the wheels are still the vehicle's point of contact with the ground.

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Looking for ways to 'rethink vehicle design'

To round off Hyundai's impressive futuristic vision, Tiger X-1 is transportable by UAV, which allows it to reach the remotest of locations — where it can act as a mobile scientific exploration platform.

"Vehicles like TIGER, and the technologies underpinning it, give us an opportunity to push our imaginations,” said Dr. John Suh, Head of New Horizons Studio. "We are constantly looking at ways to rethink vehicle design and development and re-define the future of transportation and mobility."

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The Tiger X-1 could act as a scientific exploration platform on the Moon. Source: Hyundai

Hyundai's ambitions are equally evident in the company's video (below) for Tiger X-1, which shows the vehicle on the surface of the Moon and other remote locations.

In order to make this type of exploration as efficient as possible, the Tiger weighs 12 kg (26 pounds) and measures approximately 79 cm (31 inches) long and 41 cm (16 inches) wide when folded up, making it roughly the size of a carry-on suitcase.

3D-printed vehicle parts

The vehicle concept was developed by Hyundai Motor Group's New Horizons Studio headquartered in Mountain View, California, as part of a partnership with engineering software company Autodesk and industrial design consultants Sundberg-Ferar.

Drawing from Autodesk's expertise in generative design, the X-1's chassis, leg segments, and even its wheels and nonpneumatic tires are all 3D printed using carbon fiber composite.

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Most of the Tiger X-1's parts are made using additive manufacturing. Source: Hyundai

Though Tiger X-1 is designed to travel through terrain "not suitable for humans," Hyundai New Horizons is open to adapting its idea for the road, CNET reports — one use case would see a taxi version of the vehicle using its legs to make transport more accessible to wheelchair users. 

All of this depends, of course, on whether Hyundai's four-legged walking vehicle — one of the most futuristic and ambitious concepts we've seen — does ever make it to production.