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BMW 7-Series can park itself, respond to hand signals

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Matthias Schrader/AP/File

(Read caption) The company logo of car manufacturer BMW on a car in Munich, Germany. The newest BMW 7-Series will include the first use of gesture control for certain functions, essentially a driver or passenger making hand motions in the air.

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The BMW i3 electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe are audacious examples of advanced technology in many ways.

Not the least of it are body shells made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) mounted atop an aluminum rolling platform carrying the powertrains and crash structures.

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BMW has said that in due course, the plug-in cars' advanced technology would migrate into its higher-volume mainstream production models.

Now we know what one of those models will be: the next generation of the BMW 7-Series full-size luxury sedan.

The company announced at a 7-Series technology preview last week that it would use a lightweight Carbon Core structure for the big sedan.

 The CFRP elements in the body shell save fully 286 pounds (130 kg) over a comparable high-strength steel structure.

In cutaways showing the new body structure, much of the passenger cage appears to be made of CFRP--including some elements backed with steel to form specific members.

BMW had said in 2012 that it would use carbon fiber in the structure of a new 7-Series, following reports that Mercedes-Benz will build a version of its next-generation E-Class with a carbon-fiber structure that could save as much as 770 pounds.

That car has not yet been released, but we can expect additional details this year or next.

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Following the industry trend, the new 7-Series will use a number of downsized and turbocharged engines, an eight-speed automatic transmission.

While the company didn't say anything about a plug-in hybrid model, the lineup is bound to include one or more--possibly using the company's next-generation Power eDrive system.

Competitor Mercedes-Benz already offers a plug-in hybrid version of its own S-Class large sedan, and is steadily spreading the system across other vehicles in its range.

Meanwhile, the Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid model launched today at the Shanghai Motor Show uses a far larger battery pack and will likely provide far higher electric range than any of the German competitors.

Other innovative features on the new 7-Series will include the first use of gesture control for certain functions, essentially a driver or passenger making hand motions in the air.

It will also include Remote Parking control, which the driver will activate using a new display key after getting out of the car.

That will make the next BMW 7-Series the first production vehicle that can park itself, including in spaces so tight that a human couldn't open a door to exit.

For more details on the upcoming 7-Series, Green Car Congress has summarized the full BMW announcement.