You worry for the drip-drip of Lotus Type 132 teasers when they go from a bit of front grille to something as forgettable as a sensor - but the latest 15-second 'See' video (following on from 'Breathe') is obviously pointing to something a bit more significant than just another pop-out piece of fancy tech. Or at least we assume it is.
A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor is, after all, touted as one of the central components in a new generation of autonomous cars. The concept of using lasers to determine distances from an object has been around for decades, but the technology needed to do it thousands of times a second and then build a 3D map from the resulting point cloud is a more recent application - especially doing it with pinpoint accuracy at 70mph.
While it is a common sight on prototype autonomous vehicles, the sensor's wider application has typically been limited by the scale, cost and complexity of the systems involved. Elon Musk famously described LiDAR as a "fool's errand" back in 2019, and suggested that a mix of cameras and radar were better suited to the task. However, since then the viability of laser-based tech has surged thanks to increased investment - not least by Volvo, Lotus's stablemate in the Geely portfolio.
Volvo is an investment partner in Luminar, a US-based startup which is said to have already developed a LiDAR system capable of detecting objects 250 metres away, and in unprecedented detail. "Our technology allows for detection of human shapes, and their actions, which has never been possible before for LiDAR on vehicles," noted Austin Russell, the firm's CEO.
Ensuring that autonomous cars perceive objects accurately is obviously of paramount importance when making them work in the real world, although it is the software behind the sensors - i.e. the one charged with actually controlling the vehicle - which is proving fiendishly difficult to programme given all the variables that it might encounter on the public road.
LiDAR's inclusion in the Type 132 is therefore highly unlikely to point to full autonomy, although Lotus's indication that "it is the eyes of the car which will support Lotus' pioneering intelligent drive technologies on its new generation of electric vehicles", suggests that the sensor is going to be an integral part of the experience. Even if its use is limited to enhancing safety, its appearance at this early stage is obviously intended to show that Hethel is holding nothing back when it comes to its game-changing electric SUV.
Case in point: a third teaser entitled 'Stretch' which shows "the active rear aero on Type 132 coming to life". Here, of course, Lotus is on more familiar ground - its rich legacy in motorsport means that it is among the early pioneers of aerodynamic innovation, and was responsible for ushering an era of ground effect into Formula 1 with the technical breakthroughs made by the Lotus 78 and championship-winning Lotus 79.
More recently it has highlighted the 'porous' nature of the 2,000hp Evija hypercar. And while the new model is probably not going to be revealed with a dramatic three-part front splitter or Venturi tunnels in its rear quarters, the deployable rear spoiler is clearly another part of Lotus's kitchen sink approach to SUV building.
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