Lucid Air will be semi-autonomous when offered in early 2021

It will come factory equipped with lidar

Peter Rawlinson with the Lucid Air back in 2016. (Getty Images)

Tesla rival Lucid Motors plans to equip its new Air luxury electric sedan with a semi-automated driver assistance system when the first cars roll off an Arizona assembly line in early 2021, Lucid said on Tuesday.

The Lucid Air, which will compete with the Tesla Model S, will come standard with such features as adaptive cruise control, lane centering, automatic emergency brakes and automated parking.

It will also be one of the first production vehicles to be equipped with standard lidar, a laser-based sensor that detects obstacles and objects, including pedestrians, as part of the vehicle's collision avoidance system.

Tesla chief Elon Musk has said Teslas do not need lidar because their other sensors — mainly camera and radar — provide sufficient object detection when the vehicle is in semi-automated Autopilot mode. He has derided the use of lidar, which is far more costly than other sensors, as "a fool's errand."

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson is the former chief engineer of the Tesla Model S.

Unlike General Motors' Super Cruise system offered on some Cadillacs, the Lucid Air's new DreamDrive assistance system will not be capable of hands-free driving, at least not initially. But Lucid has said it will be able to add more advanced features in the future through wireless over-the-air updates.

While Tesla pioneered over-the-air software updates, its vehicles do not provide true hands-free driving. Tesla warns owners that, even when its Autopilot and so-called Full Self Driving are activated, drivers must still keep their hands on the steering wheel.

Lucid is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which invested $1 billion in the Silicon Valley startup in 2018.

The Air will be built at a new plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.

Lucid Air pricing is expected in the coming weeks. Tesla's Model S starts at just under $75,000 and with options, can cost as much as $105,000.

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