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Hyundai’s new four-wheeled robot is designed to carry anything you want it to

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Mobility as a service

South Korean automaker Hyundai is used to making machines that move, but the company is now tackling the problem of mobility on a much smaller scale than usual. Instead of new cars, it’s announced at CES this year a four-wheeled robot named MobED that’s designed to carry, well, anything you like — from parcels to people; TV screens to trays of drinks.

MobED is about the size and shape of a dolly you might find in a workshop or garage. It’s 67cm long and 60cm wide, with four 12-inch pneumatic tires that can be controlled independently via a trio of motors at the end of each axel. A complex suspension system means its central platform can be tilted in any direction, letting MobED keep goods level when driving up or down a ramp and adjust the angle of its cargo (which would be handy if the robot is carrying a camera or screen).

What exactly MobED will be used for is an open question. Hyundai is calling the device a “mobility platform,” and an official press release suggests it wants to sell MobED to industrial partners who will then adapt it for specific use cases. Prices are unknown, and judging by some flashy videos from Hyundai, it’s imagining some very varied applications. MobED could become a personal caddy, for example, like the Gitamini — toting packages and shopping. And future versions might even be strong enough to carry people.

“MobED can be used as a mobility device for the elderly or the disabled when the platform is sufficiently increased for people to mount it,” said the company in a press release. “It can also be used as a stroller or leisure vehicle.”

The robot has a top speed of 30km/h (18mph) and can drive for four hours on a single charge. How exactly it navigates is unknown, though. Hyundai makes no mention of sensors at all, whether cameras or lidar, nor does the company say whether it comes with any autonomous driving software — which would be very onerous for partners to develop.

Interestingly, Hyundai isn’t the only car manufacturer branching out into this sort of generalized robotics. Toyota and Honda are both investing heavily in this area, developing machines that might one day work in care homes or be used as personal mobility devices. Evidently, as self-driving technology develops, many car manufacturers are seeing new areas to apply this newly acquired expertise. MobED is just the latest example of this trend.