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Hyundai’s robot vision of the future is unexpectedly realistic

Typically we think of automotive manufacturer Hyundai, its cars and SUVs that come to mind. Hyundai is on hand at CES 2022, and it has revealed something that isn’t automotive-related but is aimed at ushering in a new type of mobility. The product is called the Plug & Drive (PnD) Robotic Module, and Hyundai says it’s designed to enable the Mobility of Things (MoT) concept.

Hyundai says PnD is a modular platform that adds mobility to traditionally inanimate objects. The platform can be used to mobilize large and small objects and build robots. Hyundai has a stated goal of creating robots using the new platform that would allow personal mobility, connected communication, and the ability for the devices to operate atomically.

Plug & Drive Module

The goal of the PnD was to create an all-in-one integrated mobility solution supplying intelligent braking, steering, and in-wheel electric drive and suspension hardware in a single module. The system is designed so that a single-wheel unit has a steering actuator that enables 360-degree wheel rotation so the vehicle can move in any direction.

PnD also integrates LiDAR and camera sensors to enable autonomous movement. Hyundai sees a future utilizing the PnD system that allows companies to modify their workspaces on demand. When thinking of mobility robots, using a robotic platform to modify a workspace probably isn’t what most people have in mind. The PnD platform can also be used to create mobility devices that can be attached to larger vehicles for the majority of the trip and then detach to take occupants the last mile to the destination.

PnD Concept Devices

At CES, Hyundai has shown off four application concept models that all utilize the PnD platform. The concept devices include products for personal mobility, service mobility, logistics mobility, and L7.

The Personal Mobility concept was designed using a quartet of 5.5-inch PnD modules. The concept is 133 centimeters wide, 125 centimeters long, and 188.5 centimeters high. It’s a mobility vehicle designed for carrying a single passenger the last mile to the destination. To operate in confined spaces, it utilizes a rotary door that opens and closes. To improve the amount of space inside the small vehicle, it uses a joystick mounted to the right of the single-seat rather than a steering wheel and pedals.

The Service Mobility and Logistic Mobility concepts both use the PnD platform. These concepts are 130 centimeters wide, 110 centimeters long, and 180 centimeters high. Both have a storage space that opens and closes like a drawer. The Service Mobility concept is designed for various tasks, including carrying luggage in hotels. The Logistic Mobility robot is essentially the same device but intended to transport goods from warehouses.

The last concept is the L7, designed for extreme mobility. It relies on a 12-inch PnD module similar to the Personal Mobility concept. In the L7 concept, the vehicle has a seat that rotates so the occupant can get it out easily, and it operates using a joystick.

Mobile Eccentric Droid Platform

Another platform that Hyundai is showing off at CES is called Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED). It’s a small mobility platform that utilizes a Drive & Lift module. The platform is an all-in-one robotic solution that uses an eccentric wheel mechanism with drive, steering, and braking systems integrated into a single unit. MobED has a Drive & Lift module mounted on each wheel, allowing the platform to move up and down.

The movement allows the MobED device to operate on uneven terrain while its body stays level. It also allows the system to be raised to clear obstacles like steps or other obstructions. MobED is 60 centimeters wide, 67 centimeters long, and 33 centimeters high with a weight of 50 kilograms. It utilizes a 2 kWh rechargeable battery, and when fitted with 12-inch tires, it has a top speed of 30 km/h.

Hyundai envisions the MobED device to be equipped with a display to get people’s attention visiting various public attractions. Certainly, robotics researchers should be able to find other usage scenarios for the platform in the future.

Other Robotics Displays at CES

In addition to showing off its two new robotics platforms, Hyundai is also showing off other robots under the company’s umbrella. Hyundai will be showing off the Boston Dynamics Spot and Atlas robots. Boston Dynamics was purchased by Hyundai last summer.

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