What happened

Shares of Chinese electric-vehicle maker XPeng (NYSE:XPEV) were moving higher on Thursday, after the company released several images of an upcoming new sedan that might be the first production car to incorporate lidar sensors.

As of 11 a.m. EST, XPeng's American depositary shares were up about 4.7% from Wednesday's closing price.

So what

Here's why the stock is moving today, summed up in four tweets from XPeng's official English-language account on Thursday morning.

As you can see, XPeng's new model is a sedan. It appears to be a size smaller than the company's P7, with a strong hint that it will incorporate lidar sensors as part of a new advanced driver-assist system. That would be a first for a mass-produced vehicle; CEO He Xiaopeng said in November that XPeng expects to release a lidar-equipped vehicle in 2021.

Lidar sensors use an invisible laser beam to scan and form a detailed 3-D image of surroundings. Most autonomous-driving development programs use lidar sensors; the images are compared with 3-D maps to confirm the vehicle's precise location.

A silver Xpeng P7, a sleek electric sedan.

XPeng's new sedan appears to be smaller than the company's current flagship, the P7. Image source: XPeng.

Now what

Does this mean that XPeng is releasing a self-driving car? Probably not, at least not in the sense we mean it in the United States. It's likely to be an advanced driver-assist system along the lines of Tesla's most recent iterations of Autopilot. XPeng sees Tesla as a direct competitor and it's eager to be seen as a technology leader in China's electric-vehicle space.

It's not clear when XPeng will launch the new sedan. But I think auto investors should expect its technology to impress, its price to be competitive, and its launch to happen soon.

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