Researchers in Ontario have developed a prototype that they say provides everything needed to assemble a fully functional vehicle – except the body.

Amir Khajepour, a mechanical and mechatronics engineering at the University of Waterloo, says the invention could allow the mining industry, resorts, or anyone else looking to utilize smaller vehicles to produce them at “a fraction of the cost” of current methods.

His team’s invention is essentially a combination of a wheel and an electric motor, containing what Khajepour describes as “all the main components of a car” – including the computerized systems that govern acceleration, braking and steering.

With all these “complicated elements” taken care of, the module would allow anyone looking to produce a vehicle for a specialized use to get an off-the-shelf solution that provides them with a head start on development.

“Plug-and-play technology is what we’re going for,” research engineer Rhyse Maryniuk told CTV Kitchener.

While the modules handle the computerized aspects of a vehicle, it would still be up to somebody else to produce the physical systems, including the body. The modules can then be bolted directly to the manufactured frame.

Khajepour says the modules could be particularly beneficial as demand for small-scale production of specialized electric and autonomous vehicles heats up. Vehicles produced through this method can be smaller than typical cars, as they do not necessarily need room for steering columns and other traditional parts.

The researchers are still some ways away from being able to mass-produce their modules, or even test them out on the roads. They also hope to create versions of their prototype that could work for larger commercial and utility vehicles.