11 reasons why cars are the most exciting gadget of 2016

From autonomous driving to whatever Apple's working on, we’ve compiled a comprehensive car tech lowdown

For years, the car industry's attitude to innovation has been akin to a toddler's appetite for vegetables.

In an era in which Apple's iPhone has led a revolution in the tech world and wireless internet has become commonplace, auto makers have largely remained content with seat warmers and improved stereo options.

Occasionally a car would come along with cruise control or a camera that could help you park, but dramatic changes to the way you drive have been few and far between. Until now that is. Recent announcements from both CES and the Detroit Motor Show mean that motoring tech is racing ahead of its former self.

Thanks to exciting advancements in autonomous sensors, smart home integration and the battery range of electric vehicles, you could soon be driving a car that deserves its place in the future.

So what do you most need to know about car tech in 2016? Fear not: we’ve compiled a list of the 11 most important innovations and industry developments heading your way very soon.

1) Ford vs Tesla: the autonomous war is on

The most significant automotive announcement from CES was that Ford is tripling its fleet of automotive cars, having confirmed that it officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program in December.

This is important because it means that Ford is now the largest automotive company to have joined the program, and therefore the best placed manufacturer to take on Elon Musk’s Tesla. At least until Apple enters the autonomous fray, but more on that later.

2. Google is probably teaming up with Ford

Google has long been involved in testing autonomous tech and predicts you’ll be able to buy a self-driving vehicle by 2020. Will that be a Google-branded car? At the moment, we don’t know.

That said, a series of long-running rumours have stated that a self-driving partnership between Ford and Google is in the offing. This was expected to be announced at CES last week, but didn’t materialise.

A subsequent report in the Wall Street Journal has stated that both parties are still considering a non-exclusive collaboration and that this would be as part of a wholly new company. The Nexus car has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

3. Tesla leads the autonomous field… for now

Right now, the most advanced autonomous car on the market is Tesla’s Model S. Whereas manufacturers such as Ford and Google are looking to introduce their self-driving tech in one fully-realised package, Tesla prefers to roll out its innovations on a feature by feature basis.

Last year, it added autopilot to its cars so that they can travel on a motorway with minimal driver input. We tried this in person and it was simultaneously amazing and mildly terrifying.

Being able to speed hands-free down the M4 is far from the limit of Tesla’s ambitions though. This week it was announced that the Model S can now be wirelessly summoned to your location from up to 12 metres away, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed its cars will be able to autonomously travel across the USA by 2018.

Yup, that’s two years earlier than Google’s prediction. Given the hefty production delays suffered by the Tesla Model X, Musk may have let his astronomic ambitions get the better of him here.

4. Chevrolet has cracked the affordable electric car

Believe it or not, the first electric car was created by Thomas Davenport in 1834. Almost 200 years later, Chevrolet has created one your mum might want to own. The future, eh? It's been a long time coming.

Unveiled at CES in its final incarnation, the Chevrolet Bolt costs US$30,000 and has a range of 200 miles off one charge. This is a massive deal because it means most the Bolt is attainably priced for most first-time car buyers and it won’t run out of puff when they need it most. It’s claimed to last for 80 miles longer than BMW’s i3 and, better still, it doesn’t look anything akin to the ridiculous Renault Twizy.

Essentially, the Bolt should be good for both your bank balance and the planet.

5. But Tesla isn’t far behind

Tesla’s Model 3 is meant to be the car that will bring the manufacturer into the motoring mainstream. Projected to be unveiled this March and placed into production before the close of 2017, the Model 3 is intended to follow the Chevy Bolt's lead in terms of both price and range. However, it will also feature the Tesla S’ autonomous capabilities, and that’s why it’s the more exciting car. In theory at least.