Hyundai’s Wild Crab-Driving Tech Is Almost Ready—And Kia Could Be First To Use It

Smushed up against a tennis court-sized pen at CES, the splashy annual tech expo in Las Vegas, a couple hundred of us watched on gleefully as an electric car called the Hyundai Mobion scampered sideways like a crab, drove in a perfect diagonal and pirouetted in place.

Each new party trick—made possible by four wheels that can rotate up to 90 degrees and spin independently—elicited audible gasps from onlookers accustomed to seeing cars move in just two boring directions: forward and reverse. Those days are over, my friends.

The most astonishing part of it all wasn’t that this technology merely exists, but rather that it’s almost ready for prime time. 

Hyundai Mobis, the automaker’s supplier arm that created the Mobion concept, aims to complete the development of its dazzling e-Corner system by 2025, a company executive told InsideEVs. Kia, another firm under the Hyundai Motor Group umbrella, is eager to deploy the tech in its future autonomous delivery vehicles. So it may not be all that long before an electric Kia drops off a package in your driveway, does an about-face and continues on its merry way.

 

That’s the idea, anyway. 

“I think we need to put that into production,” Kia design chief Karim Habib told InsideEVs in an interview. 

Once e-Corner is finished, Hyundai Mobis will start shopping it around to car companies, said Lee Seung-hwan, the company’s head of advanced engineering. Right now, his team’s main priorities are bringing e-Corner’s cost down (two motors per wheel makes the price an issue, he said) and ensuring it meets durability benchmarks.

Assuming all goes well and customers sign up, he expects e-Corner could enter production by around 2030. Kia, he said, may wind up being one of e-Corner’s first buyers.

The Kia PV1 Concept

Hyundai Mobis’s presentation touted a whole bunch of advantages for regular drivers like you and me. The ability to scoot horizontally into a tight parking spot could give a new, literal meaning to parallel parking. Maneuvering around a double-parked car would be simpler if you could just turn all your wheels 45 degrees and proceed diagonally. But, Lee says, e-Corner’s most “powerful” application will be in commercial vehicles like robotic delivery vans of the future. 

Kia unveiled a concept for just such a vehicle at CES. During a press conference announcing a new line of highly customizable vans, the carmaker showed off a potential future model equipped with e-Corner. Kia envisions that the pint-sized PV1 will be driverless and use four-wheel steering to better navigate narrow city streets. Although the model isn’t set in stone yet, Habib said Hyundai Mobis’s technology would be “perfect” for it. 

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E-Corner wouldn’t be great for a passenger car, he said, since its extraordinarily deep wheel wells steal so much interior space. “So if you’re working towards a van that maybe has a higher floor, and it’s not just about people sitting in between the wheels, then this makes a lot of sense,” he added. 

The advent of EVs makes e-Corner possible. Just imagine the complexities that would be involved in trying to accomplish any of this using a conventional gas engine. Relying on one spinning shaft to turn four wheels in varying directions and in varying orientations? Forget about it. 

Driving each wheel independently with its own electric motor, on the other hand, unlocks a laundry list of intriguing possibilities—especially if each corner also has a second motor for steering as the Mobion concept does. Rotating all four of the car’s wheels just so enables a smooth 180-degree spin, which Hyundai Mobis calls a “zero turn.” Leaving the front wheels alone while turning the rears 90 degrees lets the entire car swing around like a windshield wiper, using the front wheels as a pivot point. 

Some battery-powered cars on the market already use their electric motors and more limited four-wheel steering setups to produce some unconventional maneuvers. The GMC Hummer EV pickup can drive on a slight diagonal thanks to its rear-wheel steering. And Mercedes-Benz has touted its upcoming electric G-Class’s ability to spin around like a top by driving the wheels on one side in the opposite direction of those on the other. 

Despite the hopes of that CES crowd, there’s an important reason that e-Corner’s most awe-inspiring capabilities probably won’t make it into your driveway: Controlling everything will just be too confusing, Lee said.

It’ll be best to leave the crab driving and zero turn to autonomous vehicles, he said.

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