Hyundai develops 'crab driving' system that could make parallel parking a whole lot easier

An evolution of a very old idea

Hyundai has unveiled a fully-functional demonstration prototype of its “e-Corner” system, technology that allows a car to rotate its front and rear wheels at extreme angles, potentially making problems with parallel parking a thing of the past.

The company first revealed the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in 2018, but at this year’s CES the firm showcased a version of its electric Ioniq 5 model equipped with an updated system, with the vehicle demonstrating exceptional low-speed manoeuvrability.

In a video released by Hyundai Mobis, the arm of the company dealing with parts and autonomous vehicle tech, the Ioniq can be seen exploiting the full capabilities of the e-Corner system by “crab driving”, rotating on the spot, pivoting and driving diagonally.

Hyundai hasn’t confirmed too many details about e-Corner just yet, but in another video released by its Mobis wing, some technical aspects underpinning the system can be seen.

The system makes use of motors mounted in each of the wheel hubs and utilises electronic dampers, braking-by-wire and steering-by-wire (i.e. without mechanical connections to the cockpit controls) to enable the vehicle to remain under control while its wheels — which are able to drive, stop and swivel independently — are angle at up to 90 degrees.

The firm says that the technology can be applied to battery-electric vehicles, fuel-cell electric vehicles and hybrids, as well as cars of varying sizes from compact models to mid-sized vehicles to SUVs.

Hyundai isn’t the only company that has been working on harnessing the potential of hub-mounted electric motors to improve either around-town manoeuvrability or off-road versatility. Mercedes recently revealed that its 2024 EQG — a fully-electric version of the fabled G-Wagen off-roader — would be able to perform a “tank turn”, i.e. rotating all of its wheels separately allowing it to turn and spin on the spot like a tank.

Mercedes EQG tank turn

Two years ago, the American EV maker Rivian hinted that its quad-motor R1T pickup and R1S SUV would be equipped with tank turn capability, though the feature has not yet made it to production models.

Implementing the tank turn has proven troublesome for Rivian, not least because programming a vehicle’s computers and traction control systems to deliver the extremely precise inputs required to allow all of the vehicle’s four wheels to break traction while not letting it spin wildly out of control is especially challenging.

Although it doesn’t employ hub-mounted motors and can’t manage anything approaching the manoeuvrability of Hyundai’s e-Corner system, General Motors’ Hummer EV can currently achieve “crab driving” of sorts by allowing all four wheels to be turned in the same direction at up to a 10-degree angle meaning that it can be driven diagonally over short distances.

Despite demonstrations of such technology currently being in vogue, it’s far from a new idea as this video from 1927 featuring a car able to enter and exit parking spaces, and turn on the spot, with ease by folding both front wheels at a 90-degree angle shows.

Another novel American invention from the early 1930s revealed an entirely different approach to the problem of tight parking spaces with a fifth driven wheel dropping from the rear of the vehicle, raising the rear-end and allowing the car to pivot into position.

It remains to be seen whether Hyundai’s e-Corner system will make production or whether it too will go the way of the fifth-wheel Packard.

Related articles

Latest articles