Jon, it is interesting that you mention the IEEE first. While there are indeed improvements coming along in the mechanical and manufacturing areas of vehicle development, the future of vehicles will be driven by electronics. This spans the engine management system to the ability of vehicles to avoid danger, and eventually drive themselves.
Sounds like a really exciting conference. I'm looking forward to more updates. You are certainly right when you talk about how far transportation has come in just the last decade. Saying that cars and other vehicles are "connected" doesn't even scratch the surface.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.