Lucid’s unique approach to cars is about more than just electric drivetrains

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Lucid Motors is a startup focused electric cars, and the company revealed the design of its first car, the Lucid Air, at the very end of last year. The luxury sedan looks like a natural competitor to Tesla’s Model S, but the company has a view of the direction of the industry that makes its car unique from the rest of the field in more ways than one.

Crucially, Lucid is betting that our usage of cars is going to change dramatically in the next few years, and as a result, so will the attributes valued in a vehicle like the Lucid Air. The Air is slated to go on sale in 2019, but its design focus anticipates a horizon even a few years beyond that, when the company’s founders and top talent anticipate a mature, robust multi-tier car sharing economy in place, as well as autonomous services that are technologically advanced enough to make passenger accoutrements just as, if not more important than driver and cockpit comforts.

Lucid Motors’ VP of Design Derek Jenkins explained how the company sees car sharing eventually becoming a multi-tier market with luxury options alongside budget and mid-tier offerings, essentially operating like the hotel industry does today. That guided the design of the car from the very start, with Lucid aiming to create the first luxury car that was actually made from the ground-up with car-sharing in mind. It’s why when you sit in the backseat (the top trim back seat, at least), you feel like a first class passenger. But since it’s a car designed to span both the age of the driver and the age of driverless vehicles, with eventual plans to upgrade its software to offer full autonomy, the cockpit also feels comparable to luxury driver-focused vehicles. That includes the power that’s obvious when our test driver gunned the accelerator, and the interior interfaces for use while driving.

James Felkins, senior user experience designer, took us through the thinking behind the wraparound dash displays and primary center console infotainment system. All of this is also designed to make driving feel like a full-service experience, with information and controls provided when and where you need them. Lucid also plans to integrated virtual assistant services, but it’s going to lean on those that users will be carrying with them already, including things like Siri and Alexa, to provide the smarts – in a package ideally suited for use while driving with a minimum of distraction.

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Lucid seems perhaps most proud of how much car they’ve been able to fit in such a small package – the exterior dimensions of the Air are less than those of a Model S, but it boasts far more usable interior volume, because, according to the company, it’s been designed with that in mind from the beginning. The target audience are city dwellers, mostly, and the idea was to create a car that would accommodate both the realities of less available space, while also offering upper-end users the comfort they seek.

Lucid’s Air is still quite a ways away from production, but it says the design is near final. The car seems to have feet both in the current world of the driver, and the world of our seemingly inevitable autonomous future. Lucid says it can do both without compromising either category, but a lot will depend on where the auto and transportation market is at in 2019 in terms of ho well it succeeds with its approach.