Hyundai Mini 45 EV Is A Small Car With Grand Ambitions

One of Hyundai’s recent concept cars was an electric vehicle named “45” in honor of its inspiration, another concept car from 45 years ago. When footage of a child-sized “Mini 45” surfaced, it was easy to conclude the car was a motorized toy for children. But Jalopnik got more information from Hyundai about this project, where we learned that was not nearly the whole picture.

The video (embedded below) explained this little vehicle is a concept car in its own right, and most of the video is a scripted performance illustrating their concept: using technology to help calm young patients in a hospital, reducing their anxiety as they faced treatment procedures. Mini 45 packs a lot more equipment than the toy cars available at our local store. The little driver’s heartbeat and breathing rate are monitored, and a camera analyzes facial expressions to gauge emotional stress. The onboard computer has an animated avatar who will try to connect with the patient, armed with tools like colorful animations, happy music, candy scent dispenser, and a bubble-blowing machine.

After watching the video masterfully edited to tug at our heartstrings (go blow your nose if you need to) we have many questions. If this was just Hyundai we would have dismissed it as a puff piece and moved on. But a children’s hospital in Barcelona was named as participant in this research project, lending some credibility to the claims. However, it’s not clear how many features shown were actually functional during hospital trial. For example, the UI on the adult-held tablet looks suspiciously like glitzy Hollywood fantasy UI instead of a real tablet app. The video ended with a few clips from the hospital trial, and children’s faces ranged from ecstatic to indifference. Not a surprise since different kids have different personalities.

While some were obviously thrilled to ride in an electric chariot of the future, others might have been better comforted by a trusted adult human instead of a robot. What was the metric for measuring success rate of calming young patients? Has the trial proved this to be a cost-effective solution to a problem that actually exists, or is this the result of a bunch of automotive engineers doing what they do best (build cars) to solve a non-existing problem?

Unsurprisingly, answers to such questions are not found in this Hyundai public relations exercise. But even in the absence of rigorous documentation, this project prompts us to ask if we want robots to monitor our body this closely. Is it a good idea to have computers know our moods? Do we want them to manipulate our emotions? As technology becomes ever more pervasive in our lives, these are not merely academic questions. Hyundai’s Mini 45 might be a cute little thing, but its ambitions raise questions that give us pause.

20 thoughts on “Hyundai Mini 45 EV Is A Small Car With Grand Ambitions

  1. Children should be taught to loathe private ownership of cars (doesn’t matter electric or ICE). They must be made to embrace communal cycling and other public transport solutions. This is the only way to reverse current situation where it’s middle of winter and it’s 7°C ouside – climate change is real and it’s killing us right now.

      1. I’m sorry that you are so blinded by ideology. Did you forget what Pope John Paul II said? His words were: “We are the richer, the more things we’re able to get rid of”. (In polish: “Jesteśmy tym bogatsi im więcej rzeczy zbędnych zdołamy odrzucić”). Isn’t that enough to convince you that people should not be allowed to hazardous things like firearms, private vehicles or radioactive substances?

        1. I don’t think Pope John Paul II said ‘You should write your crazy ideology with a safety pencil on a circle of paper, then put it in a drawer.’, but it would still be good advice.

    1. I’ll be sure to tell the kids of Yellowknife that -24°C is perfectly acceptable cycling weather. While I am at it I might as well inform all the tradespeople that they will now be transporting tools and materials via the bus. Anthropogenic climate change is definitely happening, but you need to consider use cases outside of large urban centres. Cycling and public transport become completely impractical in remote areas and places that experience serious cold and snowfall.

    2. It’s more earth friendly for me to own a car than to use a taxi or uber. I drive fewer miles than they would and I wear my cars out. Currently 160K on my C-max hybrid. Previous Focus has 240K still runs perfectly, gave it away.

    3. As much, as I am for proper public transit… It is -2C here now. And it goes down to -20 °C in February. Before windchill. There was ice rain just today, which turned sidewalks into a skating ring at best. Since the start of the whole COVID mess, public transit deteriorated a lot (from increased intervals, to some routes just disappearing) and it wasn’t that good to begin with.

      So – yea, sure. Come here and cycle. “Funeral wreaths are discounted for insane”.

  2. I’ll leave the question of how best to help kids to the experts, with hope that tech will be used properly for real benefit, and not just as a marketing stunt/tech for tech’s sake thing.

    But as for the philosophical questions, social media is already designed to manipulate emotions, and it’s a very bad thing that results in literal addiction for many.

    But I’m all for sensors monitoring people’s bodies if it helps keep people out of the hospital in the first place. If it were up to me, every phone would have a temperature sensor right by the front facing camera, and chip sized mass spectrometers for pollution alerts would be the next big billion dollar research project.

    Privacy is not really a concern if there’s an off switch you can use without consequence.

  3. Really?

    We are in a world where people never get any medicine at all, where people (including advanced countries) die because the lack of attention or the long lines to get an attention, where people die because the lacks of a (used to be) cheap ventilators and we are fighting each others by a vaccine. I don’t think that small car is in our priorities.

  4. “The onboard computer has an animated avatar who will try to connect with the patient, armed with tools like colorful animations, happy music, candy scent dispenser, and a bubble-blowing machine.”

    Teaching distracted driving at an early age…

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