The genius — or asinine simplicity, depending on how you interpret it — of Tesla is that Teslas are technologically very sophisticated but sold in terms that any idiot can understand. Full Self-Driving, for example, describes a whole bunch of software and hardware that would put you to sleep if described in technical terms, but Tesla knows better. The car self-drives, full stop, according to Tesla. The fact that it doesn’t actually is a mere inconvenience.
I bring this up because I wonder if other automakers will have the audacity to try something similar, or if they will stay on firmer ground, like GM has done with Super Cruise. Lucid, for now, seems to be in that latter camp, though not without a little flair. On Tuesday, for example, Lucid said that it would be offering “the first automotive installation of LiDAR in North America” in its Air EVs. I think it is safe to read that as somewhat of a veiled shot at Tesla, since Elon Musk despises LiDAR, tech which Volvo is also in on.
Lucid is calling its system DreamDrive, which sounds a whole lot like Tesla’s Autopilot. There is also a product called DreamDrive Pro, which sounds a whole lot like Full Self-Driving. DreamDrive Pro will be standard on the fancier trims of the Air — one called the Air Grand Touring, which starts at $139,000, and another called the Air Dream Edition, which starts at $169,000. DreamDrive Pro will be optional on other Airs, the base model of which starts at $77,400.
Here’s how Lucid describes DreamDrive:
As many as 32 sensors feed data to the DreamDrive system, yet they are so seamlessly integrated into the exterior of the Lucid Air that most won’t notice them at all. Comprising 14 visible-light cameras, five radar units, four surround view cameras, ultrasonic sensors throughout the vehicle exterior, and, for DreamDrive Pro, the first automotive installation of LIDAR in North America. This solid-state LIDAR sensor will deliver high-resolution data with an ultra-wide field of view. Together, these sensors enable DreamDrive to detect what a human driver cannot, and act as an invisible co-pilot to help drivers get to their destination safely.
A Human-Machine Interface That’s About the Human
DreamDrive’s easy-to-use interface is the product of countless hours of user testing, making use of text, color, and shapes to provide drivers with clear information. DreamDrive Pro also uses Surreal Sound — Lucid Air’s fully immersive 21-speaker system — to deliver clear directional alerts. This enhances safety features like Front and Rear Cross Traffic Protection and Autonomous Emergency Braking. In addition, Surround View Monitoring provides a beautiful 360-degree view of the vehicle, a tremendous help when parking or maneuvering in tight spaces at low speeds.
Lucid says that the system will do the things you expect driver assistance systems to do in 2021. There is adaptive cruise control and lane keeping systems for highway use; there is “Traffic Jam Assist” for speeds below 40 mph; there is also an automated parking system; there are over-the-air updates for more functions that are “already in development.”
The driver monitoring system, meanwhile, sounds responsible enough.
An infrared driver camera tracks head position, eye gaze, and blinking, while hands-off detection prompts the driver to return their hands to the steering wheel immediately. Should the driver fail to respond, indicating that the driver may be incapacitated, the system will even slow the vehicle to a complete stop, activate the emergency brake, turn on hazard lights, emit a high-pitched beep, and unlock the doors so that emergency responders can access the occupants.
The best or worst thing you can say about Lucid’s announcement Tuesday is that none of what Lucid announced is particularly surprising, as these are technological capabilities that Tesla has groomed buyers to expect in the electric vehicle space. If Tesla’s whole thing with EVs is overpromising and underdelivering, GM’s seems to be the opposite, while Lucid seems to be somewhere in between. We’ll see if it can deliver.