The Google Glass release date is nearing, and already the tech giant is rolling out Explorer editions to more and more people. Wearable tech may prove worthy in operating rooms, film schools and fashion runways, but the tiny head camera could prove dangerous behind the wheel. Google Glass and driving is an issue that gained attention even ahead of its long-drawn-out distribution into the public. Most recently, though, a California driver fighting a ticket for wearing Glass behind the wheel is raising the question: should driving while wearing Google Glass be banned?
Yes. Hands-free doesn't necessarily mean free of distraction. AAA has issued statements on the risks of distracted driving, from taking selfies while driving to texting behind the wheel. According to AAA, drivers who take a photo for roughly two seconds take their eyes off of the road for nearly two basketball courts.
Google Glass may provide a hands-free form factor, but the device still requires wearers to shift their attention to the camera in front of their eye. This ties to the phenomenon of "inattentional blindness" - what a person sees depends both on where they look and also how they focus their attention. The Google Glass heads-up displays are likely to divert their concentration from the road, leading to speeding and collisions. There will be a higher likelihood of car accidents upon the mainstream release of Google Glass if driving laws aren't put into place.
"It's pretty obvious that something that requires the preoccupation of one of your eyes, thus depriving a person of the depth perception of stereoscopic vision, is something that should not be done while driving," AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair said.
Google Glass bans were initially sparked in casinos, movie theaters and bars (and more) due to privacy concerns. AAA followed suit, only due to safety issues. Lawmakers in West Virginia and Delaware have introduced bills banning wearable computers and like electronic devices. Back in July, the UK Department for Transport also prohibited drivers from wearing Google Glass while driving.
"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," a Department of Transport spokesman said.
A California driver is now facing the consequences of donning the wearable computer while on the road. Cecilia Abadie was pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer on a San Diego freeway in October. She was cited for driving at 20 mph over the speed limit and for driving with a Glass video feed running in her vision. While Abadie doesn't refute wearing Google Glass in the car, she claims the device had been off while driving. Due to the gadget's design, it is switched on when wearers tilt their head upwards. Abadie says she made that motion when the officer walked up to her window.
Still, it's clear the Google Glass tilt-to-wake function could pose a peril on the road. Also, while Abadie allegedly had the device turned off while driving, this doesn't mean that other wearers won't be tempted to use Glass behind the wheel once it makes it public debut. I asked Doug Goodwin, a professor at CalArts leading a Google Glass workshop, how he felt the device would bear on the roads.
"I did try it to see what it was like and how it would affect me. Sitting on Interstate 10 crawling 10 miles per hour was incredibly distracting. I can talk to you on the phone hands-free okay, but Google Glass takes on a whole new level of distraction. Even at three to four miles per hour it's awful. I'm a little worried about that. If it does take of it's going to be awful because people will want to use it in the car," Goodwin said.
What do you think about Google Glass and driving? While the hands-free form factor allows for endless new endeavors, speeding down the highway shouldn't be one of them.