Finger pointing controls BMW’s new 7 Series – USA TODAY
The new BMW 7 Series flagship unveiled Wednesday is one car that can’t easily be dismissed with the wave of a hand.
That’s because it will have the ability to detect a driver’s hand gestures to operate some of the controls.
BMW has crammed the 2016 7 Series with more technology while reducing its weight. That’s all good, but it has one feature that truly makes it stand apart.
It’s the ability to control some functions of the infotainment system with the twist of a finger in midair or the wave of a hand. It’s “gesture control” brought to a new level.
“You can now turn up the radio or take a phone call with a simple gesture,” said Klaus Fröhlich, a member of BMW’s board of management in charge of development , in unveiling the car in Germany.
Features like gesture control are intended with the goal of the new 7 Series: “to set the standard for sportiness as well as for innovation in the luxury segment.”
You can turn the volume of the audio system up, for example, by spinning your index finger in a clockwise direction. To reduce it, you rotate it the other way.
“This is a big deal,” says Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader for Gartner. “This is the first time I see the automotive industry starting to embrace innovation to create different consumer experiences.”
Traditionally, automakers have borrowed their ideas for operating in-car technology from smart phones or other personal electronic devices. Now, thanks to the sensors that can be embedded in the cabin that monitor their movements, BMW came up with something completely different. “It’s just the beginning of what is to come,” Koslowski says.
Now the issue is whether drivers and passengers will use gestures. Koslowski says they will if they find it intuitive. “It has to be intuitive and better in some situations,” he says. But automakers also need to make sure they let motorists control functions the way they want — especially by not giving up on the buttons with which they are familiar.
Luxury automakers have tried more basic versions of gestures in the past. Cadillac, for instance, has had a feature in which the infotainment system lit up when it detected a hand coming toward it.
But gesture control is just one element of many new features on the 2016 7 Series.
While the 7 Series looks can hardly be considered jarring, it is packed with other innovations as well. Extensive use of carbon fiber, for instance, lowers the weight by 190 pounds. It also has grille shutters that open and close, enhancing aerodynamics when more air to the engine isn’t needed.
There will be six-cylinder, V-8 and plug-in hybrid versions:
• The 3-liter six-cylinder engine will deliver 320 horsepower in the 740i.
•The 4.4-liter V-8 is good for 445 horsepower in the 750i xDrive.
•The plug-in will be capable of 23 miles of electric-only driving per charge in the 740e. It will also be able to run at speeds up to 75 miles per hour on electric power alone.
The engines will be connected to an eight-speed transmission. There will be air suspension for extra smoothness.