Google Glass App for Drivers is Promising and Potentially Perilous

The INRIX Traffic app is expected to soon be released for Google Glass. But are Glass apps for drivers a good idea or just another distraction? CIO.com blogger Al Sacco sounds off.

Last week, I wrote a post about a potential use of Google Glass that seems downright ridiculous to me: NBA officials wearing Glass during professional basketball games. Today I received an email pitch that also made me skeptical…but the more I think about the idea, the more I think it could actually work.

INRIX Traffic, an app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and older BlackBerrys that's designed to provide traffic and accident updates to drivers, is expected to get a new software update today, and in two weeks the company will release a brand new Google Glass app. 

From INRIX:

"Transportation breakthroughs in Big Data are opening up new avenues to solving one of the world’s most nagging individual, economic and environmental problems – traffic congestion.  However, using apps on your smartphone while driving can be challenging. Google Glass presents a unique opportunity to provide drivers with time-saving, stress busting insights that help keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road as they navigate around the day’s traffic. 

"INRIX, the big data company relied on by Audi, BMW and Ford for traffic information and driver services is delivering a new version of the mobile app, INRIX Traffic 5.0, and introducing its first app for Google Glass that provides drivers with unique insight into the fastest routes, travel times and ETAs."

Glass runs Android, and the new app will be very similar to the smartphone version, but INRIX Traffic for Google Glass will also have some exclusive features, including push notifications alerting you of congestion or an incident up ahead while driving; incident reporting by taking a snapshot of the accident; ETA alerts to family and friends through Google Talk messages or email; and push notifications informing you of exactly how much time you saved by using INRIX Traffic.

I'm interested in Google Glass, and as such, I've written about it many times since it was first unveiled last summer. (If you're new to Glass, read "5 Things You Need to Know About Google Glass.") I receive at least a few Glass-related pitches every week. Most of them I simply ignore, because the fact of the matter is that Glass is not widely available yet, and Google hasn't even announced an official release date. In other words, it's unclear whether Glass will ever really catch on and become mainstream, so in my opinion, the whole industry is getting way ahead of itself in trying to imagine the next great Glass use.

That said, I'm keeping a close eye on the product, and I know that many of my readers are too. When I first heard about INRIX Traffic for Glass, I immediately thought that it could be extremely dangerous for drivers and the people around them. It could present yet another distraction, and modern drivers have more than enough of those.

The reality is that cell-phone use is not banned outright, though it is strictly regulated in some states and areas. And it's not illegal, or even frowned upon, to use navigation apps, including Google Maps, TeleNav Scout and INRIX Traffic while driving. (Seriously, how is fiddling with apps any different than texting?) Using mobile apps on a gadget that is designed to be controlled mostly by voice, such as Glass, could be safer than using the software on a smartphone or navigation unit with mostly touch-based controls. And because users wear Glass like a pair of glasses, they might not ever have to take their eyes of the road, even if they are slightly distracted.

I think INRIX Traffic for Google Glass has some potential. But for now, I'm filing this one under Sounds Cool, But Could Still Get You Killed.

Learn more specifics about INRIX Traffic for Google Glass on the company's blog.

AS

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