How Safe is Google Glass for Driving?

A California woman's citation for wearing Google Glass behind the wheel raises safety questions about wearing the Internet-connected headset while driving.

By James A. Martin
Wed, November 20, 2013

CIO — Google's futuristic Glass headgear is currently available only to developers and early adopters, the so-called Glass Explorers, with commercial release expected sometime next year. But Google Glass is already raising questions about its use behind the wheel of an automobile. Is using the head-mounted device for navigation or other purposes inherently riskier than using, say, a smartphone while driving? Or is it actually safer?

The Google Glass and automobile safety debate grew louder late last month. On October 29, Cecila Abadie, a Glass Explorer, was pulled over for speeding in San Diego. In addition to a speeding ticket, Abadie received a citation for driving while wearing Google Glass. The officer considered Google's eyewear device a monitor, and California law prohibits television and similar monitors from being on and in view of the driver.

Driver Wearing Google Glass
The debate about whether Google Glass is safe for drivers is drawing attention from many.

The citation appears to be the first of its kind. Abadie said Google Glass was not active at the time. She has vowed to fight the ticket, and many Glass enthusiasts have come to her defense.

Analysis: Is Technology the Cause of Car Crashes? Or the Cure?

We asked Google Glass Explorers, app developers and others to weigh in on the pros and cons of Glass behind the wheel. Here's what they said, along with some background on anti-Google Glass legislation around the world.

The Movement Against Google Glass Behind the Wheel

Legislators in Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia are firmly in the no-Google-Glass-behind-the-wheel camp. All three states have introduced bills to ban driving while wearing Google Glass, according to Fox News. West Virginia representative Gary G. Howell, who in March 2013 introduced his state's amendment to ban Google Glass while driving, tells CNN: "The primary thing is a safety concern. [The Google Glass headset] could project text or video into your field of vision. I think there's a lot of potential for distraction."

As of late July 2013, the United Kingdom was said to be considering a ban on Google Glass for drivers. A Department for Transport representative tells Fast Company: "We are aware of the impending rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving. It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road."

In the wake of Abadie's high-profile ticket, California Highway Patrol Officer Marc Hale tells Fox News that drivers shouldn't be allowed to use Google Glass: "Anything that takes your attention away from the motoring public in front of you is a distraction."

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