Las Vegas - It doesn’t matter how many advanced 4WD systems and “go anywhere” stickers you have, a vehicle with wheels and a conventional rolling chassis can only go so far off the beaten track.

But what if you could create a vehicle that's capable of walking, climbing and rolling?

Hyundai has done just that with the Elevate concept that was revealed at the CES technology showcase in Las Vegas this week.

But not before getting past some serious technical hurdles. After all, for a vehicle to walk and climb it needs legs of some kind, but to power the wheels you need an axle, which would render those legs useless.

That quandary is solved by modern electric car technology, with special propulsion motors mounted inside each wheel, powered by the latest electric actuator technology.

When in ‘drive-mode’ with the ‘legs’ automatically folded out of the way, the Elevate can cruise at highway speeds, just like a normal car.

But bring on the impossible terrain and those robotic legs with five degrees of freedom come into play, making it capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction, with the wheels also rolling when necessary.

According to Hyundai, the vehicle can can climb a 1.5 metre wall, step over a 1.5m gap, walk over diverse terrain, and achieve a 4.6m wide track width, while keeping the occupants level.

Bet your Land Rover Defender can’t do that.

Yet it’s not just about hopping over terrain for the fun of it. What this vehicle was mainly designed for is search and rescue operations as well as humanitarian missions. Earthquakes, tsunamis, mountain rescues... It’s not hard to see how this kind of machine would come in really handy. The fully autonomous vehicle can even be summoned help people in wheelchairs get to the top of flights of stairs.

“By combining the power of robotics with Hyundai’s latest EV technology, Elevate has the ability to take people where no car has been before, and redefine our perception of vehicular freedom,” said design manager David Byron

“Imagine a car stranded in a snow ditch just 3 metres off the highway being able to walk or climb over the treacherous terrain, back to the road potentially saving its injured passengers – this is the future of vehicular mobility.”

What’s more, the concept, which was developed in conjunction with Sundberg-Ferar, is based around a modular EV platform that allows different bodies to be switched and swopped when needed.

Now that, folks, is what you call a 4x4.

IOL Motoring