Should Google Glass be banned on the road?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| November 29, 2013

When asked what comes to mind when one mentions "road safety", smartphones probably isn't the first thing that pops into your head. Or perhaps it is, but hopefully in terms that one shouldn't be using one while on the road. With the increased use of smartphones in society, it comes as no surprise when we come across multiple people a day who opt to use their smartphones while operating a vehicle. Despite safety precautions advised against doing so, a lot of people still ignore these advisories and use their smartphone when they really shouldn't be. As a result, smartphones have become one of the biggest concerns for driver safety.

It's a problem we are aware of. Not only does talking or texting while driving usually take one hand off of the wheel, which can be an issue, but the bigger issue comes into play specifically when the driver is distracted by concerning themselves more with what's on their screen rather than what's on the road. Texting and driving can even be more dangerous than drinking and driving, although no matter the cause both are just as deadly when dealing with two-ton hunks of metal under the care of somebody who isn't completely paying attention. There have been studies conducted to show the true dangers of texting and driving; many people never thought that they would be so slow to react in certain situations. There are also active campaigns trying to stop texting and driving on the road, along with laws being passed in some states and areas that make texting and driving, or even talking on the phone (not hands-free) illegal to do. These are all situations that we are currently aware of.

But a new device will be hitting the market soon, and as remarkable as this gadget may be, there are already questions as to whether this device will be something that drivers can use on the road: Google Glass. Smart glasses. "Glasses" that let you see a small digital screen in front of one eye when active, and transparent when it is inactive. Although the device is not yet widely available, there has been a ticket issued to a woman who was wearing Google Glass when driving.

In San Diego, California, a state that has already made texting and driving illegal, Cecilia Abidie was ticketed for wearing Google Glass while operating a vehicle. Although initially pulled over for speeding, the officer recognized the new wearable technology on Ms. Abidie's person and was apparently not pleased to see it in action while she was operating a vehicle. Although the officer had no case against Abidie when it comes to smartphone usage, California has had earlier laws put in place that forbid drivers from looking at anything screen-related while driving. The law states that ‘a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and... visible to the driver’ is illegal. GPS monitors and parking assist monitors are, however, an exception to the rule.

The question now is: Should Google Glass be an exception to the rule as well?

Allegedly, Abidie claims that Glass was inactive while she was driving. In fact, had it not been for the officer pointing out the fact that she was wearing it, she wouldn't have even remembered that she had it on. As an early adopter and tester for the device, she claims that she pretty much uses Glass from the moment she wakes up until she goes to sleep. Much like our smartphones, it has become a part of her daily life. Unlike smartphones, Glass seems less intrusive if only for the fact that it is a hands-free device.

I could see where Glass could be considered a problem for drivers. Although the screen on the new wearable tech is small, it can still divert attention from the road to paying more attention to Glass - which is the bigger issue with texting and driving (that is, paying attention to a screen rather than the road). In my head, I'm thinking that it's better to be safe than sorry and just not have Glass on while driving. On the other hand, without having experiencing Glass myself I can't say that the screen would be so distracting that you can't pay attention to both the road and the screen at the same time. But as a gut instinct, I say that cars are better off being operated, for the most part, without any possible distractions. I feel like Google Glass serves as a major possible distraction.

This seems like this could be a very debatable issue in the future as it's not as black and white as texting and driving is, and even then you have people fighting for the right to text while driving despite studies and efforts to make it end. I am interested to see how Google Glass becomes involved in our everyday lives, but I do feel like Glass and driving is something that needs to be addressed before the device becomes mainstream.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Google Glass and driving? Do you think that it would be acceptable, or are you against it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image via CNet