Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space
Image: Hyundai

Hyundai is back with another robot, but this one won’t sell you a car. This creation wants to go to space, and I’m a little confused about what prompted the urge.

Well, extraterrestrial surface exploration is just one proposed function the robocar could perform, along with other logistical applications that Hyundai proposes for the little bot. Hyundai has seemingly upped its involvement into robotics lately with DAL-e and now this new robot, TIGER, but it has had a growing interest in robotics for years now. And recall that Hyundai bought Boston Dynamics not too long ago.

Hyundai’s New Horizons Studio developed this robocar jointly with Autodesk, and Hyundai’s vice president, John Suh, gives all the details in the following video:

Hyundai’s name for the robocar, TIGER, stands for “Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot” and the carmaker classifies this as an Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV). Hyundai reminds us that this is the second of these vehicles produced, the first UMV being the nightmarish ELEVATE concept. Woof.

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Illustration for article titled Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space
Illustration: Hyundai

But TIGER is an exploration vehicle rather than a passenger car, and Hyundai describes it as follows:

TIGER’s exceptional capabilities are designed to function as a mobile scientific exploration platform in extreme, remote locations. Based on a modular platform architecture, its features include a sophisticated leg and wheel locomotion system, 360-degree directional control, and a range of sensors for remote observation.

TIGER’s official announcement from the South Korean carmaker is talking up its humanitarian applications like delivering aid packages during emergencies or in areas that have been affected by natural disasters.

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space
Photo: Hyundai
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The cynic in me wants to say that TIGER has a lucrative future in defense contracts, and that wouldn’t be completely off-base. Hyundai’s subsidiary, Hyundai Rotem, has current defense contracts related to the development of AVs. And Boston Dynamics was a defense contractor before Google bought it. Maybe Hyundai sees some defense application here like with that of its future combat vehicle, though I can’t imagine TIGER being a Metal Gear Solid boss as easily as Hyundai Rotem’s cybertank:

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space
Screenshot: Hyundai
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For now, I’ll give Hyundai the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe it just wanted Boston Dynamics because its Spot robot could advance Hyundai’s UMV development. TIGER even looks a little bit like a BD Spot robot wearing wheels.

Illustration for article titled Hyundai's New Robocar Wants To Go To Space
Image: Hyundai
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Maybe TIGER really does just want to go to space and collect moon rocks, or now, maybe Mars rocks.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.

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DISCUSSION

Is it just me or do terrestrial and space vehicles have very different design constraints? In particular, for a vehicle that is going to be launched to another planet (or the moon), it’s worth spending a great deal of money to make it as light as possible because 1) you’ll be making very very few of them and 2) kilograms are extremely expensive to launch.  It does not make sense to spend that kind of money to make it light weight if it’s going to stay on Earth because it ends up being prohibitively expensive for no good reason.