I wasn't alive back when Ford introduced the Model T. Few of us were. But one need not have lived in that era to know what a significant role the automobile played in shaping our way of life. Suddenly, distances didn't seem so far. Visiting grandma and grandpa in Florida was a real possibility. People were more connected than ever. The same effect was witnessed throughout the 1980s and 90s as something called the "personal computer" crept its way into peoples' homes. Then, thanks to the Internet explosion of the late 1990s, information could be shared on a scale larger and faster than anyone could imagine. It was a great time for technology.
So what's the next big 'thing' that will change the world? Well, 2012 (and to a larger extent, this decade) is shaping up to be the era of automotive technology, or autotech. Evidence of this growing phenomenon is all around us. In February, the state of Arizona announced that they would be the first state to officially regulate driverless vehicles. In March, Google delighted Steve Mahan, a resident of California who is 95% blind, when one of their autonomous vehicles picked Steve up from his house and took him to Taco Bell for lunch-- accident free (although Google didn't pay for lunch, which would have been a nice touch). In April, Engadget reported plans between Nissan and Intel to collaborate on their next generation in-dash infotainment system. Even Ford claims they are prepared for the transition to a driverless world.
And since Google had a major influence in driverless technology, is it safe to assume their recently unveiled Google Glasses will work its way into Google's driverless technology (night-driving riding glasses with thermal imaging overlay, perhaps) for a fully-integrated autonomous experience. Even "big data" has something to offer - hive mind. With this comes ad hoc vehicle-to-vehicle wireless networks with fully-automated intercommunicating cars downloading traffic data and making real-time autonomous decisions. This promises not only a future of fewer accidents as a result of driver errors, but increased fuel efficiencies, safety measures (no more puppies locked in cars with closed windows) and onboard entertainment options - an endless slew of innovations that will usher in the new era of autotech.
Now if I could only get my parents to learn how to work the television remote, we'll be in business.