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Hyundai thinks shapeshifting walking cars are the future

Hyundai has now unveiled not one, but two walking car concepts in the past year.

As far as futuristic transportation goes, flying vehicles get a lot of attention, but Hyundai wants you to know that machines that walk are just as cutting edge.

The South Korean automaker unveiled a new transformer-like concept called TIGER (Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot), that can be deployed to autonomously traverse extreme environments, including off-Earth ones, potentially.

TIGER on the moon.
Tiger in a verdant patch of ferns.

As shown in this concept video showcasing TIGER, the vehicle, which would be battery-powered, could theoretically be dropped in remote locations by a drone and then used for exploration or delivering payloads in natural disasters. The carrier drone could also be used to charge TIGER, Hyundai says.

What separates TIGER from other autonomous vehicles is its emphasis on adaptability, which in this case means its ability to unfurl four separate legs and walk over uneven surfaces that might otherwise be inaccessible to other more traditional wheeled vehicles.

As suggested by Hyundai's concept art, this ability to extend TIGER's legs and walk like a reptile or mammal would make the autonomous ideally suited for interplanetary missions.

The TIGER concept is also quite small (it looks to be about the size of a mini-fridge), as you can see in this video showing off an experimental version of the vehicle called X-1.

If the concept of a walking vehicle sounds familiar, that's because this is actually Hyundai's second contribution to the world of Transformer-like walking machines.

A rendering of Elevate from Hundai.

Last year, Hyundai unveiled a similar concept called Elevate which is able to extend its grasshopper-inspired legs and scuttle on top of rocky terrain, or other uneven surfaces. Unlike TIGER, however, Elevate is a concept designed with passengers in mind.

Like TIGER, Elevate could have applications in search-and-rescue, or if this rendering is any indication, as a futuristic spider-like New York City cab for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility challenges.

While both vehicles are still very much conceptual, the fact that Hyundai has bothered to release two hypothetical "walking cars" is interesting in and of itself.

You can probably count on not taking any trips in a walking vehicle any time soon, but Hyundai is still fairly optimistic about the prospect of the technology going forward, going as far as to call them the "future" of mobility. And who can blame it? Real-life Transformers will likely have to walk before they can run, after all.

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