I was driving a Hyundai Ioniq 5 with sideways wheels

When I was a boy, I wanted a Ferrari Testarossa. As a teenager I would have told you that James Bond’s tricked-out Aston Martin DB5 would be my favorite ride. Today I have a new answer: a Hyundai Ioniq 5 with magical wheels that turn sideways.

Because when you have four wheels turning sideways, dear reader, tantalizing possibilities unfold.

  • Effortless parallel parking because it is simply possible slide sideways in one spot!
  • You’ll never have to back up in a parking lot again, because you can simply turn around.
  • Never have to correct your parking spot in a standard parking space again – because the butt of your vehicle can slide out faster than the front, for (theoretically) perfect entry every time.
  • Drive diagonally to avoid obstacles without swerving, or change lanes without leaning.

Are you sceptical? I’m sceptical! But much less skeptical than I was for I took the Hyundai Mobis e-Corner System for a spin at CES 2024.

They didn’t let me drive, but I sat in the front passenger seat and watched the whole operation. My driver pressed a button on a touchscreen tablet that corresponded to his favorite maneuver: “Crab Driving” to go sideways, “Zero Turn” to turn in place, “Pivot Turn” to go into a controlled drift backwards. sliding, and so on. on. The driver doesn’t have to control each wheel individually, it’s computer controlled and it looks as effortless in the cabin as it does outside.

Wouldn’t you accidentally hit someone like this? It certainly seems like a possibility, but Hyundai Mobis imagines that cars will include additional cameras, sensors and even projectors to alert others to how your car is driving.

In case it’s not clear, what happens here is that each wheel works mechanically independently of the rest. There are no axles, no steering, no shared engines – each wheel has its own independent drive motor, steering motor, suspension and brakes. It’s all electronically connected to a ‘steer-by-wire’ system, where a computer rotates each miniature steering column and spins each wheel the right amount for the turn you’re trying to make.

All this means that this isn’t a system you’ll ever see on a petrol vehicle – it’s exclusive to electric vehicles, which don’t need axles to transfer their power from an internal combustion engine.

But axes still have their uses. For example, the normal Hyundai Ioniq 5 still has them and you can mount a much larger electric motor around an axle than in a wheel.

That may be one reason why Lee Seung-hwan, VP and head of advanced engineering at Hyundai Mobis, says we shouldn’t expect this technology in a sports car. He admits that one of the system’s weaknesses is its high speed, something not found in a car expected to reach 200 to 300 kilometers per hour. He says that so far the car has only been tested at a speed of up to 50 miles per hour, or about 50 miles per hour.

But he says he still has a few years to bring it to market, and the hope is to bring it close to South Korea’s current maximum highway speed of 110 kilometers per hour (68 mph).

What about battery life? Tire wear? Surprisingly, Lee and company say these aren’t major concerns; they expect slight additional tread wear, but say “battery usage is within the overall range” despite the additional motors.

The bigger surprise is the price: “I don’t think the price of this system will be much higher than the regular system,” says Lee. He didn’t want to speculate on a number, but after much prodding he claimed it would only cost a small premium.

Hyundai does not commit to building this car itself. Its subsidiary Hyundai Mobis is an automotive sector supplier it hopes to sell this technology to car manufacturers worldwide from 2026. Lee suspects that it will then take two to three years before it will be seen on the road.

So can we have this by the end of the decade? I sincerely hope so. I think it would be difficult for many automakers to deliberately sell a slower car in exchange for a system like this – but it would. the reason to buy such a car for people like me.

Heck, Sony’s Afeela electric car could use something as obviously desirable as this.

Photography and video clips by Sean Hollister / The Verge

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