Google Glass is an intriguing product, as most technology fans would agree. Watching the initial Explorer problem and all of the unexpected uses and benefits of a product like Glass has been exciting. Of course, the infancy of Glass also means that there are almost certainly going to be some unforeseen problems, especially now that the Explorer program is slowly opening up to more users. We have already seen a Seattle bar ban Glass due to privacy concerns, and now we have the first case of Google Glass being cited as a distraction while operating a vehicle.
In California, a Google Glass user named Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding. When the officer noticed that she was wearing Google Glass, she was given an additional citation for “driving with monitor visible to driver,” based on a law intended for more traditional displays such as the in-dash DVD players popular with certain types of Honda owners.
The officer, naturally, felt that the wearing of Google Glass was a potential distraction from driving, and wrote the citation based on the law that best fit the situation. The case went to trial, but somewhat sadly the main question was left unanswered. Abadie claimed that the glasses were not on while she was driving, a claim that the officer could not disprove. As a result, she was found not guilty.
However, this still leaves open the question of whether it would have been legal for Abadie to actually use Google Glass while driving. Certainly, Glass includes navigation functionality that would be useful while driving, not to mention hands free calling and text messaging. The issue would seem to be the display blocking vision, but Google Glass is more of a small HUD than a monitor. Not only that, many newer cars have HUDs integrated into the windshield, and large actual monitors in the console.
Abadie’s lawyer did not take a clear position on the question, and simply repeated that the law in question was up for interpretation, which it certainly is. Still, eventually each state will have to decide whether to actually ban Google Glass use while driving or make the technology legal as a hands free technology.
There are certainly arguments for both sides. Using Google Glass certainly requires some amount of mental effort, and the display is in a driver’s field of view. Then again, there are plenty of other worse distractions and behaviors that are currently allowed, and Glass may even serve to curtail texting while driving. Even so, the case could be made that drivers don’t need yet another potential distraction.
It will probably take another arrest and case like this to begin to get some answers on this issue, so for now all that we can really do is wait. So, how do you feel about people using Google Glass while driving? Is it another distraction, or a way to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and not on the smartphone?[Google+ via Phandroid]