Should The Government Ban The Use Of Google Glass While Driving?

    March 31, 2013
    Chris Crum

As previously reported, West Virginia is already looking to outlaw the use of devices like Google Glass while driving. Other states are likely to follow.

Do you think Google Glass and similar devices will create new road hazards and lead to highway fatalities? Should they be banned from using while driving? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Google Glass coming to market is getting closer to reality. In fact, this week, Google picked winners of the #ifihadglass contest, who will be able to get the device. Eventually, anyone with the money to do so will be able to get their hands on one if they so choose.

But so far, the device has not even become available for people to buy yet. Should the use of the device while driving really be outlawed before we even have a chance to really see how it can be used?

H.B. 3057 was recently introduced in the West Virginia legislature. It would add existing traffic safety rules in the state, specifically including a ban on “using a wearable computer with head mounted display”. This is described as “a computing device which is worn on the head and projects visual information into the field of vision of the wearer.”

The bill doesn’t single out Google Glass, of course (there will be plenty of competing devices), but it is a response to Google’s much hyped device. The bill’s authors see the amendment as an extension of not texting while driving. It’s understandable that they would want to prevent more deaths from reckless driving before they occur. However, an outright ban on the device could potentially prevent lives from being saved too.

You have to take into account that at this point we have no idea what these devices are really capable of, and it’s highly likely that developers will create applications that actually enhance safety. Consider this talk from one of the Google Glass engineers, who was actually talking about this kind of technology as it pertains to contact lenses (but it still applies here).

During his presentation, he outlines possibilities for the future, which include several types of vision improvement, such as “super vision,” night vision and multi-focal electronic lenses. In other words, it’s possible that at some point, devices like Google Glass could actually be used to help the vision impaired see better and more clearly. It’s possible that they can enhance anyone’s vision at night. Obviously, any of these scenarios could actually prevent auto accidents.

But that’s all just speculation for a possible future. The point is, do we want to have these devices banned before we really know what they can do? For that matter, if the technology makes it to contact lens form, how would any law ever be enforced?

It’s also worth considering what Google Glass is already capable of today, and that is, for one, shifting the focus from devices that require you to look away from the road. You’re taking your eyes off the road when you look at your phone, or even your dashboard/console. With Google Glass, you’re not.

As Matt Peckham at Time says, “West Virginia already bans texting while driving or using a phone without a hands-free device…But isn’t Google Glass also a hands-free device for your eyes? A way of potentially freeing you from looking at things that might otherwise take your eyes completely off the road, whether glancing at your phone to check the time or answer a call or scan the weather?”

It’s entirely possible that Google Glass will only evolve to become even less of a distraction over time. Google’s Matt Cutts put out a video this week talking about where he sees Google in ten years, and among his ideas was a theory about a “brain interface”.

“In theory there could be a brain interface so you could be having a dialogue where some of it is audible and some of it is not,” he contemplates.

Can you think while driving?

This is just futuristic speculation and imagination at this point, but in reality, it’s not that far fetched of a scenario. Ten years is a hell of a long time, especially in Google time. Ten years ago, Google was just getting Gmail off the ground. Now, they have driverless cars.

Gary Howell, one of the bill’s authors, told CNET, “I actually like the idea of the product and I believe it is the future, but last legislature we worked long and hard on a no-texting-and-driving law. It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and underskilled drivers. We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension.”

Interestingly enough, a new survey from AT&T, which looked at 1,000 commuters, showed that 49% of adults admit to texting while driving, compared to 43% of teens in another study from the company.

Of course, none of this really proves anything. I, for one, have not had the pleasure of trying one of the devices on, much less driving while wearing and operating one. I can’t speak from first-hand experience. It’s entirely possible that it does create distractions, and maybe there is valid argument for a ban. But banning the devices this early seems like a snap judgment that doesn’t take into consideration all possible factors.

Let’s not forget that Google started creating self-driving cars to reduce the number of auto accidents and make the roads safer. Some states like the idea of these being legal. Of course, driverless cars are more accident prone when humans are involved.

What do you think? Would a ban on Google Glass while driving be premature, or do you think it really is in the best interest of public safety? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lead image: Google co-founder Sergey Brin driving while automatically snapping photos from Google Glass


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.