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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Device Can Track Soldier Movements With or Without GPS

As reported by Defense Systems: Army researchers are developing a pocket-size device that will give soldiers precise geolocation information even when GPS signals are unavailable.

The Warfighter Integrated Navigation System (WINS), being developed at the Communications Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center, uses a variety of sensors to track a soldier’s movement from a last known location, recording footsteps, speed, time, altitude and other factors to show the soldier’s location on a map.
"It's got a number of inertial sensors, such as a pedometer and an accelerometer, things you will find on your cell phone but of a higher quality," Osie David, a CERDEC researcher, said in a news release. "Even if the enemy is denying you GPS or the terrain is, you can still get known location on here so it will show up on your Nett Warrior device or your command and control system."
Finding alternatives to GPS is a focus for the Defense Department precisely for those times when Global Positioning Systems signals don’t get through, whether because of terrain such as dense forests or jungles, or enemy interference. GPS signals can be jammed even with low-powered devices or spoofed by stronger signals.
Or both. In 2011, it is thought that Iranian engineers jammed the GPS signal for an U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone, then spoofed its coordinates to make it land in Iran instead of its base in Afghanistan. University of Texas students also have demonstrated using spoofing to take control of unmanned aircraft and even an 80-foot yacht
The military doesn’t expect that it ever will do without GPS—it’s still the most accurate and far-reaching geolocation system ever created and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. But in addition to hardening GPS signals against jamming and other electronic warfare attacks, researchers are working on alternatives for those times when GPS service is blocked.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Driver is Fined for Using His Apple Watch While Driving

As reported by Engadget: Now that electronics manufacturers are releasing more and more smartwatch models, you might be wondering what the authorities' stance is on using one while driving. Well, this clears things up a bit for our Canadian readers: a man named Jeffrey Macesin was recently pulled over and fined $120 for using his Apple Watch behind the wheel. Macesin told CTV News Montreal that the watch was inside a bag, and that he was only changing songs on it at that moment, since it was plugged into the car radio. He thought the cop only wanted him to get out of the way when he turned the cruiser's lights on, but the officer obviously thought the device was a cause of distraction.

In the end, he got a ticket under Section 439.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code, which states "No person may, while driving a road vehicle, use a handheld device that includes a telephone function." Technically, smartwatches aren't handheld devices, but it has an LCD screen and smartwatch-like features, so they fall within a grey area. A lawyer who specializes in traffic violations, Avi Levy, told CTV News he believes a smartwatch is a Bluetooth device instead of a handheld, and "it has been established in the law that you're allowed to use Bluetooth devices and it doesn't constitute an infraction."

In at least two other locations, New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, cops made it clear in April that if you use a smartwatch while driving, you could face penalties.

A study by the U.K. Transport Research Laboratory found smartwatches are far more distracting than smartphones. According to the Huffington Post, the research found it takes 2.52 seconds for someone to react in the event of an emergency after looking at their smartwatch, compared to 1.85 seconds if they were using a handheld cellphone.

With this data and citing the fact that only more distracting apps are bound to come on the market, Paul Singh, CEO of the vehicle safety company Smart Witness, called upon the U.K.’s Department of Transportation to “place an immediate ban on the use of [smartwatches] by drivers.”

“We don’t want to sound like kill-joys and the health and safety police but there’s no doubt that using smart watches whilst driving will cause serious accidents,” Singh wrote for the Huffington Post.  Singh’s post noted that the U.K. banned drivers from using handheld phones in 2003.

In the U.S., only 14 states have banned handheld cellphone use all together. However, 44 states have banned texting while driving.

There do not appear to be any proposed bans on driving and using a smartwatch in the U.S. yet, but last year, there were several bills introduced that proposed making it punishable to drive and use a Google Glass device.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. in 2012 in accidents caused by distracted driving.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Space Station Module Move Makes Room for Private Spaceships

As reported by Space.comAstronauts on the International Space Station moved a closet-like storage module to a new spot on the orbiting lab Wednesday (May 27) to make room for a new docking port to welcome private space taxis in 2017.

During an hours-long move, the station's bus-size Permanent Multipurpose Module rode a robotic arm to a new perch on the space station's Harmony connecting node. It was the first move for the module, which NASA calls the PMM, since its installation on the station's Unity node in 2011. You can see a video of the space module move here.

Early in the docking process, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly noted a warning message that was quickly cleared by NASA. "Except for that first little message there, it all looked perfect," Kelly said after the module move was finished.

NASA worked closely with controllers at the Canadian Space Agency in Quebec to move the module using a robotic arm. The work began at 4:45 a.m. EDT (2045 GMT), according to NASA, with the de-mating of the 14-foot-wide (4.3 meters) module taking place at 5:50 a.m. EDT. The module move was closely supervised by Kelly and fellow NASA astronaut Terry Virts, who commands the station's Expedition 43 crew.

The is just one in a series of steps to prime the International Space Station to receive crew flights on U.S.-built commercial spacecraft. Currently, the station's docking ports are designed to accommodate NASA's space shuttle fleet (which retired in 2011) and Russia's Soyuz space capsules, which now ferry all crews to space.

Boeing and SpaceX are creating new spacecraft that will begin sending astronauts aloft around 2017. Two docking adapters will fly into space aboard two SpaceX Dragon spacecraft this year; astronauts will install the adapters in a series of spacewalks.
NASA is shifting to commercial vehicles to reduce its reliance on Soyuz spacecraft, and regain a U.S. capability of launching astronauts into space.

The PMM was first used to haul supplies from Earth while the space station was under construction. Then called "Leonardo," the Italian Space Agency's module flew eight times in space before the STS-133 crew left it behind in 2011 to dock to Unity.

Today, the module is used as a 2,400-cubic-foot (68 cubic meters) storage facility, able to hold 11 tons of equipment, or up to 16 racks, plus several storage bags.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SpaceX Cleared for US Military Launches

As reported by BBC NewsThe US Air Force has certified the private company SpaceX to launch military and spy satellites.
A joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing has had a monopoly on those launches since 2006.
Founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX has already won contracts with NASA to ferry cargo and crews to the International Space Station.
The approval from the US military followed two years of intensive reviews by the US Air Force.
"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade," Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement.
Mr Musk said the decision was "an important step toward bringing competition to national security space launch."
In June, the Air Force expects to open bidding for the contract to launch GPS satellites built by Lockheed and it will be SpaceX's first opportunity to compete for military work.

Russian engines

The US military has been relying on the Atlas 5 rocket, which uses Russian built engines, to power payloads into space.
But the military only has until 2019 to use that system, as US lawmakers have banned the use of Russian engines for launches that concern national security.
The certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will give the military an alternative rocket ahead of the ban.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Research Suggests that Hackers can Track Subway Riders Through Their Phones, Even Without GPS

As reported by the Daily Dot:  Underground subways offer no place to hide from hackers.

Determined hackers can track the movements of millions of subway riders around the world even as they go underground by breaking into smartphone motion detectors, new research from Chinese academics reveals. The attack can track subway riders with up to 92 percent accuracy.

The ability to track subway riders represents a significant cybersecurity threat to the tens of millions of people who use public transportation every day. There are more than 5.5 million daily New York City subway passengers, and over half of those people are carrying smartphones, thus exposing themselves to tracking.

"If an attacker can trace a smartphone user for a few days, he may be able to infer the user’s daily schedule and living/working areas and thus seriously threaten her physical safety," wrote Jingyu Hua, Zhenyu Shen, and Sheng Zhong of Nanjing University, one of China’s oldest universities. "Another interesting example is that if the attacker finds Alice and Bob often visit the same stations at similar non-working times, he may infer that Bob is dating Alice."

Smartphones have long been considered God’s gift to spies. They offer myriad tracking tools, from the browser to the GPS sensor, and they stay with their owners almost all day, every day.

The new research, which has not yet been peer reviewed, shows hackers can track people without either cell service or GPS, both of which are heavily protected from attackers and often don't work underground anyway. By contrast, motion sensors, like the accelerometer that enables screen rotation, are much more vulnerable and can give everything away.

Every subway in the world has a unique fingerprint, the researchers said, and every time a train runs between two stations, that fingerprint can be read in the accelerometer, potentially giving attackers access to crucial information.

“The cause is that metro trains run on tracks, making their motion patterns distinguishable from cars or buses running on ordinary roads,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, due to the fact that there are no two pairs of neighboring stations whose connecting tracks are exactly the same in the real world, the motion patterns of the train within different intervals are distinguishable as well.”

To make this attack a reality, the researchers propose a new attack that learns each subway’s fingerprint and then installs malware on a target’s phone that steals accelerometer readings.

The trio of researchers performed experiments in China by tracking volunteers carrying smartphones through subways in Nanjing. Tracking accuracy reached 70 to 92 percent.

The attack is "more effective and powerful than using GPS or cellular network to trace metro passengers," the researchers assert. Accelerometers simply aren't protected the way GPS and cell networks are. An accelerometer can be accessed, run, and read without the user knowing, whereas smartphones display indicators when either GPS or cell service is being used.

There are several defenses against this hack, the most interesting one being power-consumption scrutiny. To track someone using this method, a hacker would have to continuously access the phone's accelerometer, draining significant power no matter how well the malware was concealed. If you monitor your phone's power consumption, you should notice when an app is using too much of the battery—possibly for nefarious reasons.

The Chinese research paper can be read below:

We Can Track You If You Take the Metro: Tracking Metro Riders Using Accelerometers on Smartphones

Watch the Furthest Flight Ever Flown on a Real Life Hoverboard

As reported by Gizmodo: The Guinness World Records says that Catalina Alexandru Duru just pulled off the farthest flight ever traveled on a real life hoverboard: 905 feet and 2 inches. You can see him rise up 16 feet in the air on the hoverboard and then start cruising through the air over a lake with nothing but invisible underneath him in the video below.

The hoverboard Duru uses is more like a super powerful quadcopter-type hoverboard and not a hoverboard in the 'Back to the Future' sense but it’s still pretty awesome. And also, the added bonus of not using BTTF-style? This one works over water.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

You Won't Need Waves with this Electric Surfboard

As reported by EngadgetIf you want to surf, but are too lazy to paddle or look for waves, the Wakejet Cruise from Swedish outfit Radinn is for you! The company says it "marries the agility and speed of wakeboarding with the freedom of surfing," but that doesn't mean you can take the electric-powered craft lightly. It cruises along at a rather insane 28mph for a full half-hour on a single charge -- or up to an hour if you're willing to go slower. That's about the same speed as a water skier, meaning that unlike seated watercraft, it'll require your full attention, along with some skill and athleticism.

You control the speed with a hand-held remote, and can recharge the built-in battery in about an hour when you're done. The carbon and kevlar board also has a mobile app, built-in GPS and magnetic safety switches. Radinn's wakejet is hardly the first product like this, but with the relatively short recharge time and long range, it's probably the most practical -- and expensive! It's on pre-order with a Q2 2015 delivery for a mere $20,000 or so, except that other one-percenters already snapped up the first run. Luckily, the next batch is available in Q3.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not Everyone will be a Winner in the Self-Driving Future

As reported by Gizmodo: The first road-legal autonomous truck made a splashy debut earlier this month. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is shiny and new, but it will not be good for everyone. Autonomous trucks will destroy jobs, Scott Santens points out at Medium, killing the truck stop as we know it.

Even if you reserve no particular nostalgia for truck stops, the effects will be devastating for local economics. Autonomous trucks will obviously replace drivers, an estimated 3.5 million of them, but they will make the business that cater to drivers obsolete, too. Santens writes:

Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there.
Those working in these restaurants and motels along truck-driving routes are also consumers within their own local economies. Think about what a server spends her paycheck and tips on in her own community, and what a motel maid spends from her earnings into the same community. That spending creates other paychecks in turn. So now we’re not only talking about millions more who depend on those who depend on truck drivers, but we’re also talking about entire small town communities full of people who depend on all of the above in more rural areas. With any amount of reduced consumer spending, these local economies will shrink.
But autonomous trucks have obvious benefits, too. Trucking is a decently paid job but also a dangerous one. It takes truckers far from their families for long stretches of time. It encourages poor lifestyle habits. There are over 300,000 crashes involving heavy trucks every year.

Autonomous trucks will almost inevitably start taking over our roads, but it is worth pausing to consider their unintended effects. A few weeks ago, Martin Ford, author of Rise of Robots,pointed out the ripple effects of autonomous cars in Gizmodo. Not everyone will be a winner in the self-driving future.

GPS/GNSS Satellites Make a Load of Difference to Bridge Safety

As reported by ESAWhen extreme weather comes our way, real-time information from space can help us to decide if closing a bridge is the right thing to do.
ESA is working with the UK’s University of Nottingham to monitor the movements of large structures as they happen using satellite navigation sensors. 

Satnav sensors and wind meters
The team fixed highly sensitive satnav receivers for detecting movements as small as 1 cm at key locations on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland.
Measurements from these sensors were continuously transmitted in real time via satellite to a processing centre at the university and made available via a web-based interface as part of GeoSHM, the project for Global Navigation Satellite System and Earth Observation for Structural Health Monitoring.

This realtime information was complemented by historical Earth observation satellite data to give a better overall picture of possible influences on bridge safety through gradual changes in the surrounding ground and any movements of critical structures.
After analysing Earth observation images of the Forth Road Bridge dating back seven years, the team found no displacements of the towers or the surrounding soil.
Not all bridges are as stable, however: satellite imagery from China has revealed subsidence caused by underground engineering and groundwater extraction around bridge sites in Shanghai and Wuhan.
Over the past 50 years, traffic on the Forth Road suspension bridge has increased from the expected 30 000 vehicles per day to a daily average of 40 000, with 60 000 crossing on peak weekdays.
As a result of this increased load, the bridge has stressed structural members and unexpected deformations. Also, extreme weather conditions such as high winds cause frequent bridge closures, and having only one lane open in each direction results in upwards of £650 000 in lost revenues per day.

Web-based interface
Bridgemaster Barry Colford observed: “This information is extremely useful for understanding how much the bridge can move under extreme weather conditions. This allows us to decide to close the bridge based on precise deformation information.”
"For example, I knew that the bridge can move significantly under high winds but for the first time I know that bridge moved 3.5 m laterally and 1.83 m vertically under a wind speed of 41 m/s.
“Other information provided by the GeoSHM system is also important to define reliable alarm thresholds for issuing the right alerts at the right time.”
The global market for the installation of GeoSHM on existing and currently planned long-span bridges is worth in excess of $1.5 billion. The UK market alone is estimated to be worth in excess of £200 million and growing. China is expected to be the largest market.
While GeoSHM is designed mainly for monitoring bridges with a main span greater than 400 m, it also has potential for shorter bridges, such as Hammersmith Bridge and the Millennium Bridge in the UK.
“Eventually, GeoSHM could be deployed for monitoring offshore wind turbines, masts, towers, dams, viaducts and high-rise buildings, for example,” said Xiaolin Meng, GeoSHM team leader.

Detecting long-term movements
Through the ARTES Integrated Applications Promotion programme, ESA has been supporting a variety of infrastructure monitoring.
"The combination of long-term monitoring of ground levels using Earth observation data and short-term satnav positioning creates a potent information service,” commented Beatrice Barresi, ESA’s GeoSHM project manager.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back to Earth: SpaceX Capsule Departs International Space Station

As reported by The GuardianA SpaceX Dragon capsule left the International Space Station on Thursday for return to Earth.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who's spending almost a year on the space station, used the outpost's robotic arm to unhook the gumdrop-shaped spacecraft from its port on the station's Harmony module and release it for the homeward journey.

The capsule, containing more than 3,000lb (1,360kg) of experiments and equipment, aimed for an early afternoon splashdown in the Pacific, off the southern California coast.
The capsule arrived at the orbiting lab last month, bearing much-needed groceries and other goods for the six station residents.
The California-based SpaceX company is Nasa’s only means of getting supplies to the 260-mile-high station, ever since last year’s loss of an Orbital Sciences Corp craft in a Virginia launch explosion.
More recently, a Russian supply ship went into an uncontrollable spin after liftoff and was destroyed upon re-entry earlier this month, its entire contents undelivered.
SpaceX will attempt to launch another shipment on 26 June from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This was the sixth of 15 scheduled cargo resupply missions that California-based SpaceX is taking on under the terms of a NASA contract. SpaceX launched the Dragon with more than 4,300 pounds of cargo on a Falcon 9 rocket on April 14, making for a 37-day stay at the space station. One of the items on board was the first zero-G espresso machine to go into outer space.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tesla Gigafactory: Drone Flyover Shows How Huge It Really Is

As reported by Yahoo Autos: The very word "gigafactory" makes Tesla Motors' lithium-ion cell fabrication and battery assembly plant sound quite large.
But how huge it actually is can be hard to comprehend.
Context is provided by diagrams that compare its planned footprint to, say, the largest building for assembling jetliners on Boeing's Washington state campus.
So a new video may help add perspective. Shot just this week, it shows flyover footage of the factory under construction in northern Nevada.
Tesla Motors gigafactory - size comparisons [source: EV Obsession]
Brought to us via the Transport Evolved website, the video was taken not from an airplane but by a remote-controlled drone.
Accompanied by somber music, the 2-minute clip shows the rectangular two-story factory building from a number of angles.
The building appears to have the second-story roof largely completed.
According to the YouTube page, it was posted by a user named "Quick Laptop Cash" (ahem). It's described as follows:
The first 4k ultra-high-definition video of the Tesla Gigafactory. Located 15 minutes east of Reno, Nevada, the Gigafactory is growing at a steady pace and helping fuel the strong economic recovery in Northern Nevada.
The description continues as follows:
To ensure safety this video was recorded while no workers were present and from over 1 mile away with a DJI Phantom 3 Professional Drone utilizing GPS. The drone was in constant visual contact as well as maintaining an altitude of not more than 400 feet above ground level.
Rendering of Tesla battery gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, Sep 2014
Rendering of Tesla battery gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, Sep 2014
The YouTube page is followed by a promotional link to a site that purports to inform about and list homes in the Reno, Tahoe, and Sparks areas of Nevada.
Interstingly, it appears to have been created and posted by local boosters grateful for the jobs and opportunity the huge plant is expected to provide.
When completed, the gigafactory will provide batteries not only for the Tesla Model 3 electric car expected to launch in 2017 or 2018, but also the Tesla Powerwall home energy-storage battery and similar products intended for commercial and industrial use.
The video ends with a note of thanks to many parties: Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Tesla itself, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, the construction workers building the factory, EDAWN, and Nevada lawmakers.
"You are creating jobs and helping to redefine our once-struggling local economy" by building the $5 billion gigafactory, it says in closing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Map of the World's Buses and Trains Moving in Real Time

As reported by The VergeSwiss-German IT firm GeOps has collaborated with the University of Freiburg on an interactive map of the world's major mass transit systems, incorporating public data feeds (like the MTA's) offered by train and bus operators to show everything moving in real time. Over 200 systems from around the globe are represented here, and it's absolutely mesmerizing to watch the colorful dots slowly amble their way across the grid.
Of course, not all mass transit authorities offer truly real-time data — GeOps notes that much of the map is based on schedule information, though it incorporated live data where it could. Still, it's incredible to watch.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Silicon Chips That See Are Going to Make Your Car and Smartphone Brilliant

As reported by MIT Technology Review: Many of the devices around us may soon acquire powerful new abilities to understand images and video, thanks to hardware designed for the machine-learning technique called deep learning.

Companies like Google have made breakthroughs in image and face recognition through deep learning, using giant data sets and powerful computers (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”). Now two leading chip companies and the Chinese search giant Baidu say hardware is coming that will bring the technique to phones, cars, and more.

Chip manufacturers don’t typically disclose their new features in advance. But at a conference on computer vision Tuesday, Synopsys, a company that licenses software and intellectual property to the biggest names in chip making, showed off a new image-processor core tailored for deep learning. It is expected to be added to chips that power smartphones, cameras, and cars. The core would occupy about one square millimeter of space on a chip made with one of the most commonly used manufacturing technologies.

Pierre Paulin, a director of R&D at Synopsys, told MIT Technology Review that the new processor design will be made available to his company’s customers this summer. Many have expressed strong interest in getting hold of hardware to help deploy deep learning, he said.

Synopsys showed a demo in which the new design recognized speed-limit signs in footage from a car. Paulin also presented results from using the chip to run a deep-learning network trained to recognize faces. It didn’t hit the accuracy levels of the best research results, which have been achieved on powerful computers, but it came pretty close, he said. “For applications like video surveillance it performs very well,” he said. The specialized core uses significantly less power than a conventional chip would need to do the same task.

The new core could add a degree of visual intelligence to many kinds of devices, from phones to cheap security cameras. It wouldn’t allow devices to recognize tens of thousands of objects on their own, but Paulin said they might be able to recognize dozens.

That might lead to novel kinds of camera or photo apps. Paulin said the technology could also enhance car, traffic, and surveillance cameras. For example, a home security camera could start sending data over the Internet only when a human entered the frame. “You can do fancier things like detecting if someone has fallen on the subway,” he said.

Jeff Gehlhaar, vice president of technology at Qualcomm Research, spoke at the event about his company’s work on getting deep learning running on apps for existing phone hardware. He declined to discuss whether the company is planning to build support for deep learning into its chips. But speaking about the industry in general, he said that such chips are surely coming. Being able to use deep learning on mobile chips will be vital to helping robots navigate and interact with the world, he said, and to efforts to develop autonomous cars.

“I think you will see custom hardware emerge to solve these problems,” he said. “Our traditional approaches to silicon are going to run out of gas, and we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and do things differently.” Gehlhaar didn’t indicate how soon that might be. Qualcomm has said that its coming generation of mobile chips will include software designed to bring deep learning to camera and other apps (see “Smartphones Will Soon Learn to Recognize Faces and More”).

Ren Wu, a researcher at Chinese search company Baidu, also said chips that support deep learning are needed for powerful research computers in daily use. “You need to deploy that intelligence everywhere, at any place or any time,” he said.

Being able to do things like analyze images on a device without connecting to the Internet can make apps faster and more energy-efficient because it isn’t necessary to send data to and fro, said Wu. He and Qualcomm’s Gehlhaar both said that making mobile devices more intelligent could temper the privacy implications of some apps by reducing the volume of personal data such as photos transmitted off a device.

“You want the intelligence to filter out the raw data and only send the important information, the metadata, to the cloud,” said Wu.

The First Self-Driving Vehicle You See May Have 18 Wheels

As reported by the NY Times:  Traveling about 55 miles per hour on a Nevada highway, the big rig's driver looked like The Thinker, with his elbow on the arm rest and his hand on his chin. No hands on the steering wheel, no feet on the pedals.

Mark Alvick was in "highway pilot" mode, the wheel moving this way and that as if a ghost were at the helm.

Daimler Trucks North America LLC says its "Inspiration" truck, the first self-driving semi-truck to be licensed to roll on public roads — in this case any highway or interstate in Nevada — is the future of trucking. It's a future that will still need drivers, but they might be called "logistics managers."

"The human brain is still the best computer money can buy," said Daimler Trucks North America LLC CEO Martin Daum on Wednesday.

Although much attention has been paid to autonomous vehicles being developed by Google and traditional car companies, Daimler believes that automated tractor-trailers will be rolling along highways before self-driving cars are cruising around the suburbs.

On freeways there are no intersections, no red lights, no pedestrians, making it a far less complex trip, said Wolfgang Bernhard, a management board member of Germany's Daimler AG, at an event in Las Vegas.

But it will be years before an autonomous truck hits the highway for anything more than tests and demonstrations, the company says.

The industry is watching the developments, said Ted Scott, director of engineering for American Trucking Associations, which represents trucking companies.

He questioned what the economic benefit would be, with companies paying a driver's salary on top of the new technology, even given the potential safety advantages including less-fatigued drivers.

"Being a tired driver is not as big of a problem as it's often made out to be," Scott said.

The group representing truck drivers — the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association — isn't sure the technology would affect driving jobs, noting the abundance of job openings now and the industry's high turnover.

"We mainly have questions," said Norita Taylor, the group's director of public affairs, citing current laws regulating how long a driver can drive and prohibitions on texting while driving.

Al Pearson, Daimler Trucks' chief engineer of product validation, said all the same laws still apply: No texting, no napping while in motion.

"We need an attentive driver," he said, with the technology removing some of the stress.

Legal and philosophical questions stand in the way, as does perfecting the technology that links radar sensors and cameras to computers that can brake and accelerate the truck and handle any freeway situation.

Public perception of a self-driving car will also be a hurdle. Daum said society might forgive a number of deaths caused by tired truck drivers at the wheel but they would never forgive a single fatal crash blamed on a fully automated big rig.

For now four states, including Nevada, and the District of Columbia, certify testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads as long as a human driver is behind the wheel, and a few others are keen on allowing the tests.

Bernhard said more states need to allow testing of autonomous driving before fleets of self-driving semi-trucks fill U.S. freeways and interstates anytime soon.

The company is still far from taking customer orders for the trucks.

"We're just getting people inspired," he said.