Eight months after Lucid Motors showed off the final version of its all-electric Air sedan, the company has finally revealed the in-cabin tech — from the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen to the underlying software, integrated apps and Amazon Alexa voice assistant — that drivers and passengers will use once the automaker begins deliveries of the vehicle in the second half of the year.
The aim of the company’s branded Lucid User Experience, or Lucid UX, is to include all the tech that customers might want in a vehicle priced between $80,000 and $169,000 without adding clutter and confusion.
“We really tried to follow a strong principle of ease-of-use and a short learning curve, for it to have quick responses and an overall feeling of elegance,” Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s head of design said in a recent interview. “I kind of wanted to move away from it being overly technical or sci-fi looking or spreadsheet-like and really move towards something that was more fitting with the brand and our design ethos.”
The interior isn’t as stark as a Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model Y, nor as jam-packed as some of the German luxury vehicles. Jenkins and his team have tried to hit the Goldilocks’s equivalent the perfect bowl of tech porridge.
“At the beginning of the project I always used to tell the team, ‘Listen I want my mom to be able to get in this car and figure it out the first time,’ ” Jenkins said. “She should be able to know instinctively probably the light switch and the door locks are on the left side because that’s where they always are and not have to dig through that stuff. Or that the climate controls are probably on the lower screen because that’s where it often is and traditionally has been. I just felt like it should have intuitiveness and a degree of simplicity, while still having impressive features and having a system that can grow.”
The curved 34-inch 5K display called the glass cockpit floats slightly above the dashboard and is the most visible hardware in the vehicle, although is not the only component worth mentioning. It is actually three separate displays housed under a single plate of glass, a technique that Mercedes-Benz has used in its 56-inch hyperscreen. On the far left is a touchscreen where Lucid has placed the most important, or core, vehicle controls, such as window defrosters, lighting and wiper settings.
The middle screen is the instrument cluster, which is where the driver will see the speed and remaining battery range displayed. The right side of the instrument cluster is a widget that can display a variety of information, depending on the user, including navigation or what music is playing. The instrument cluster is also where the driver will see whether the advanced driver assistance system is activated.
To the right of the steering wheel is another touch display that Lucid is calling the home screen. It’s here that navigation, media and communications will be located.
Moving down and to the center console area is another curved screen that Lucid has dubbed the “pilot panel,” which displays climate controls and seat functions, including a massage feature, along with all the other vehicle settings. The driver or passenger can swipe menus from the home screen down to the pilot panel to display in-depth controls for music or navigation. And if the driver doesn’t want that additional touchscreen, the pilot panel can be retracted, opening access to a storage space behind it.
It’s worth noting that analog switches are still within the vehicle in three areas: the doors, the steering wheel and a slice of space between the pilot panel and the upper home screen. Alongside the doors, the driver or passengers will find the window switches and interior door latches. Right above the center console display are four physical buttons that lets the driver or passenger control climate temperature and fan speed.
On the steering wheel is a touch bar and two toggles. These buttons can be used to launch the Alexa voice assistant and turn on and off the advanced driver assistance functions, as well as adjust the following distance in cruise control and volume.
“We did a lot of research through this discussion of analog interaction such as physical buttons and digital interaction on a touchscreen,” Jenkins said. “What we found was there was some key functionality that people still wanted to have physical interaction with.”
The vehicle is also loaded with 32 sensors, including a single lidar that is located just below the nose blade on the exterior of the vehicle. Below that is a lower air intake and then a forward-facing radar. Other radar sensors are located on the exterior corners. There are exterior cameras, as well, in the nose and header area behind the rearview mirror.
Inside the vehicle, and tucked right below the instrument cluster, is a camera that faces the driver. This camera is part of the driver-monitoring system, which is meant to ensure the operator is paying attention when the advanced driver assistance system is engaged.
Two other hardware items worth noting are the 21-speaker surround sound system from Dolby Atmos and a small vintage detail with the air vents. Lucid wanted the Air to have physical air vents that a person could touch and move — unlike the Tesla Model 3, which requires the user to move the direction of the air flow through the digital touchscreen. But Lucid didn’t want the bulk of a vent in the chiclet-style design, which has an additional side tab to turn on or off the air flow.
The solution is a slimmed-down air vent with a single round dial right in the middle. That dial can be grabbed and moved to shift air flow. It also can be turned to shut off the air to a particular vent.
“It was a breakthrough for us,” Jenkins said laughing, “which isn’t a breakthrough because that was super common in the 60s and 70s in cars.”
Behind all of the physical touchscreens and sensors is the software that delivers functions and services.
Lucid started with the open-source Android Automotive operating system and built out the apps and other features from there. Android Automotive OS is modeled after Google’s Android open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. Google has offered an open-source version of this OS to automakers for some time. In recent years, automakers have worked with Google to natively build in an Android OS that is embedded with all the Google apps and services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. Lucid did not take the Google services platform route.
From here, Lucid worked with various third-party apps and integrated them into the infotainment system, a list that currently includes iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Dolby Atmos, Tidal and Spotify.
Lucid has also decided to make Alexa the default and primary integrated voice control system. Lucid Air will also come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay — apps that run on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicate with the vehicle’s infotainment system. This means the driver, or passenger, can access Google Assistant and Siri through these apps, they just won’t be able to control the vehicle functions like climate.
The vehicle will also have integrated mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, which will allow Lucid to update the software of the vehicle wirelessly. The over-the-air update capability lets the company add new apps and services.
Jenkins said they’re already looking at bringing more content to the infotainment system, including gaming and video streaming, which would only be accessible when the vehicle is parked.
The Lucid design team is also examining other more hardware-based additions to future model years of the Air, including rear entertainment displays.
“You probably won’t see that from us until sometime in 2023,” Jenkins noted. “We think that’s an important thing to bring to the car especially because the rear seat is such a nice place to be.”