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California Traffic Court Clears Google Glass Wearer

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Detail of Google Glass

Detail of Google Glass, photo courtesy Google Glass

Driving while wearing Google Glass on California roads could be hard to prove, if the recent resolution in Cecilia Abadie’s traffic court case is any example. As Tony Perry writes in the Los Angeles Times about the court’s decision: “San Diego Traffic Commissioner John Blair found that wearing the computer-in-eyewear could be covered as distracted driving by the traffic code, but police must prove that the eyewear was on.” And they were not able to do so in this case.

The case involved Abadie, 44, of Temecula, Calif., who is believed to be the first person in the U.S. to be given a ticket for driving while wearing Google Glass. As this blog has reported, Abadie pleaded not guilty in December, after being ticketed for California Vehicle Code 27602, which makes it a violation to drive “if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen” is visible. She was pulled over for speeding, when the officer saw she was wearing the Google Glass.

Abadie said she wasn’t using Google Glass at the time, even though the device was turned on and she was wearing it. Google Glass is a computer in a single eyeglass that perches above a person’s right eye. About 10,000 people (nicknamed “Google Explorers”) have been trying it out since last year. It is expected to be available for purchase by the general public later this year.

Richard Read writes for The Car Connection:

But here’s the interesting part: the court didn’t clear Abadie because it determined that she was not, in fact, using Google Glass. No, the court cleared Abadie because it had no way of knowing whether she was actively using the device while driving.

That, in a nutshell, explains why laws meant to combat distracted driving don’t work well — and the situation is only going to get worse in the future due to three very important factors.

Read goes on to write that those three factors include:

  1. The way we interact with our devices. Experts could look at a person’s Google Glass browsing history to determine what a driver was doing at a certain time, but that might not be accurate. As Read says, “For example, you may have Facebook open in one of your tabs right now, but are you using it?”
  2. Privacy issues.
  3. The size of the devices we use. Police in San Diego could see Abadie’s Google Glass. But what happens when smart contact lenses are available? Read points out that Google is already at work on them, as BBC News Technology has reported.

Perry notes that bills to ban driving while wearing Google Glass are pending in Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia. This blog has written that Brooklyn, N.Y. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduced such a bill in New York, saying of Google Glass: “‘It’s very distracting, and I think before anyone wants to try … we need to take action before the bird gets out of the cage.’”

In a comment to The Car Connection article, someone posting as Jerry Atrics writes: “If it is safe to drive while wearing the Google glasses, then Google should come out and make that statement. But they won’t, because it isn’t.”


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