(Pocket-lint) - Cars have been featured at consumer electronic shows with increasing frequency in recent years, causing some to comment that those shows are becoming car shows. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it's the motor car that's becoming gadgetised. The car is the uber gadget of the future, and of the now.
With CES 2015 behind us, a new world of car technology has been shown off, giving us an insight into the car tech of 2015 and beyond. There's concepts, there's reality, but it all has one thing in common: it's smarter and more connected than ever before.
Driving autonomously into the future
Stealing headlines in late 2014 was Audi's autonomous A7. Yes, it's a car that drives itself. This isn't some abstract sci-fi fantasy confined to the test track: the Audi A7 Sportback piloted driving concept drove the 560 miles from Stanford to Las Vegas for CES 2015.
Importantly, much of the technology is already in production cars: adaptive cruise control and Audi side assist play their parts, alongside myriad sensors elsewhere on the car. Cameras, lasers, radar and ultrasonics work in tandem so that car is aware of its environment.
Audi has confirmed that the sensor arrays are close to production and at a price affordable enough to incorporate into future cars. There are a lot of barriers, but the technology works, and it works today.
But long-range driving isn't all that piloted vehicles have to offer. With a vehicle being aware of its surroundings comes another advantage: simple parking.
Autonomous parking has been available for a couple of years, but BMW has been showcasing an enhanced version, combined with a 360 degree crash avoidance system. In an adapted BMW i3, laser scanners map the environment and can see if you're about to drive into a pillar or barrier and stop the vehicle.
Combined with parking, letting your car do the parking in even tighter spaces is something that we all want and the BMW Remote Valet Parking Assistant does just that.
Taking a step a little further into the future, the Remote Valet Parking Assistant from BMW works in tandem with your smartwatch. Tell the car to park itself and using the laser scanners and a digital plan of the car park you're in, it can find a space and park itself.
For the ultimate in convenience, BMW envisions a future where you can call your car and it will navigate to the car park exit, autonomously, to meet you. Driving your car with your watch is no longer the preserve of a James Bond storyline.
BMW has also tested gestures for the smartwatch, so you can, for example, unlock your car with a gesture detected by your watch.
To cement that notion, Audi used its CES 2015 press conference to summon its autonomous Prologue Piloted Driving concept vehicle onto stage using a smartwatch built in collaboration with LG.
Driving your car with your watch is no longer the preserve of a James Bond storyline.
But let's not jump too far into the future: Hyundai have shown off its Blue Link smartwatch app that will let you remotely start and stop the engine, lock or locate the car - again useful for parking.
Best of all, the Blue Link smartwatch app will work with current Blue Link-enabled cars and will be free from Google Play for your Android Wear device in the coming months.
Super smart interiors
Moving inside your car, there's a host of technology waiting to serve you up the connected and entertainment experiences you crave. With smartphones being your personal computer, it's the smartphone experience that cars want to recreate.
There's no end of connected experiences, app compatibility - not to mention forthcoming CarPlay and Android Auto - but one announcement from Ford stands out, and that's involving SmartDeviceLink. Essentially, this will let you project the graphics from your favourite navigation app onto the display of your car.
So if you want to use Google Maps Navigation, you send that to the car and interact on your car's display. Of course, there needs to be compatibility, but the mobile app you're familiar with on your phone, may be preferable to that car's native navigation.
When it comes to entertainment, it might be Harman's Individual Sound Zones (ISZ) that grab your attention. This is a technology that will let you create individual sound zones for each passenger. That means, for example, that navigation directions won't cut into the music being listened to in the rear seats.
Using the in-car speakers, micro headrest speakers, as well as ceiling speakers, you'll be able to have the best sound for each individual, rather than one messy cavern of sound. Harman also offers HALOsonic, it's in-car noise-cancellation system designed to eliminate road noise.
Best of all, these aspects of interior technology are all coming this year.
Gesture controls, in a car
One area that might not make it into your future car is gesture control. We've previously seen Land Rover experimenting with gesture control and this is a trend that doesn't seem to be slowing down.
We previously mentioned BMW's gestures with a smartwatch. Again, BMW has been looking at in-car gestures. How about making a certain gesture in front of the gear stick to tell the navigator you want to go home?
Fellow Germans at VW are also looking at gesture controls. Demonstrated in the VW Golf R Touch, all knobs and dials are gone, replaced with touch and gestures. Able to precisely track your hand movements, deliberate gestures will let you open and close the sunroof, for example, or use a two finger or three finger gestures for different actions.
More displays, everywhere
The knob and dial-less car is closer to reality than some of the other car technologies of the future - the new Audi TT has a full digital driver display for example - and even if you're not sold on gestures, there's no shortage of large displays in today's cars.
Tesla famously has a 17-inch touch control display in the centre, making the VW's Golf R Touch concept perfectly feasible.
Audi not only wants displays for the front, but the 2015 Audi Q7 will feature the Audi tablet. This is an Android tablet, designed for seamless integration with the MMI system on the Q7, and designed to withstand temperature extremes and crashes.
It's a 10.1-inch tablet powered by Nvidia, offering 32GB of storage, connection to the in-car LAN for access to services like Netflix.
That all seems to make perfect sense, but how about replacing the mirrors of your car with digital displays? We've previously seen the VW ZL1 ditch its mirrors in favour of cameras and displays.
QNX is following suit with digital mirrors, meaning information can be overlaid, such as a warning of an overlapping car, which is a natural evolution of today's blind spot warning detection offered by the likes of Volvo.
Sharp has also shown off its free form display. If you were wondering how cars of the future will escape having retangular displays all over the place, Sharp's free form IZGO display will let designers have displays in any shape they want.
And it isn't just the interior of the car that's getting a display makeover. BMW has a key for the i8 that incorporates a 2.2-inch touch display. This will provide you with information on your car, as well as giving you more remote functions. Keyless entry and ignition is fairly common now, but now you'll be able to glance at your key and see what the fuel levels are.
The best thing is that this smart BMW key will be an option for i8 owners in 2015.
Mercedes future concept: F015 Luxury in Motion
Where all these things come together and logically lead us, is to Mercedes F015, its vision of future autonomous cars. There are no shortage of concept vehicles out there, but Mercedes incorporates a lot of the technology we've mentioned into one place. There's no doubting that it's a work of art, harking to sci-fi visions like Demolition Man or iRobot.
But where on one hand, Mercedes Luxury in Motion concept is a utopian vision of safe, convenient, comfortable, cars, it sits juxtaposed to a dystopian vision of the driving experience, where the car is little more than a souless vessel to convey you from place to place.
Swivel seats suggest that you'll be sitting face-to-face in your future vehicle, playing Scrabble on the iPad on a road full of sentient vehicles. As we've seen, that dream/nightmare (depending on where you're sitting) is no longer the stuff of fantasy and there's little standing in the way of Mercedes vision becoming a reality.
Whatever your take on the future, cars are more sophisticated than ever. They are being gadgetised, they are being appified and we can't help feeling that in vehicles of the future, you'll need to be as competent driving your smartphone as you are your car.