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Last year, Hyundai Motor Group formed an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) division to develop flying autonomous taxis.

Now the company is taking a more grounded approach to its futuristic endeavors with the creation of its New Horizons Studio.

Transformable UMVs

The Silicon Valley-based unit will focus on a new type of vehicle that Hyundai calls Transformer-class models (presumably after the Transformer movie franchise that features reconfigurable autobots) or, more simply, ultimate mobility vehicles (UMVs).

Hyundai Elevate walking car

Hyundai Elevate walking car concept (Image: Hyundai)

Combining robotics and wheeled locomotion technology, the vehicles will be able to adapt to changing conditions and “traverse off-road terrains with unprecedented mobility,” according to the carmaker.

This includes traveling to remote and rugged locations that are otherwise inaccessible.


New Horizons’ first project will be to create a production version of the Elevate concept that was unveiled at the CES electronics show in early 2019.

Hyundai Elevate walking car

Resembling a walking all-terrain combat vehicle from Star Wars, the Elevate uses wheels and robotic legs.

Such a design could be used to climb stairs or as a first response vehicle during a natural disaster.

Among the features envisioned at CES were:

  • Robotic legs with five degrees of freedom plus in-wheel propulsion
  • Omnidirectional motion
  • Climbing a 5-ft vertical wall
  • Stepping over a 5-ft gap
  • Drivable motors that enable the legs to lock in any position

Leadership Team

The new studio will be led by John Suh, who will serve as vice president. Suh most recently was the director of Hyundai CRADLE (Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences).

Hyundai New Horizons Studio

He also led Hyundai Ventures. Prior to joining Hyundai, Suh worked for General Motors, the Palo Alto Research Center and Stanford University.

In addition to Suh, Ernestine Fu has been appointed director of product management for New Horizons. She previously led research on human operator and autonomous vehicle interactions at Stanford University’s Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab.