One thing that a growing number of “smart” machines can do is move autonomously through buildings or even city streets. Designing that functionality from scratch can be challenging, though, which is where Hyundai's Plug & Drive (PnD) modular platform is intended to come in.
Unveiled as a concept this week at CES 2022, PnD would be available in a variety of sizes and drive configurations, in order to fit a wide range of items. These could include cargo containers, vending machines, seating for passengers, or just about anything else.
The platform incorporates four battery-powered wheel units, each one of which is equipped with LiDAR and camera sensors for navigation and obstacle avoidance. Those units also provide the propulsion, suspension, braking and steering – each wheel can pivot 360 degrees, allowing the platform to move in any direction without turning around, and to turn on the spot.
Hyundai presented several potential applications for the system, including both autonomous and joystick-controlled setups for moving cargo and passengers. Some of these can be seen in animated action, on YouTube.
“The PnD module is adaptive and expandable to match human needs,” says Dong Jin Hyun, Vice President and Head of Hyundai Motor Group's Robotics Lab. “Because in the world to come, you won’t move your things – they will move around you.”
There's no word or when or if the Plug & Drive platform may become a reality.