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Google Will Lobby Against Distracted-Driving Bans on Google Glass

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Detail of Google GlassGoogle has hired lobbyists to stop proposals in at least three states that would ban people from driving while wearing Google Glass, as Dan Levine writes for Reuters.

As this blog has reported, Google Glass — a tiny computer in an eyeglass that perches above the right eye — will be available to buy later this year at a cost of $1,500; about 10,000 people have tried it since last year.

There is concern among traffic safety advocates that using Google Glass while driving will take a driver’s attention off the road — yet another thing to distract drivers and potentially cause crashes. As Reuters writes, in 2012 more than 3,000 people died in the U.S. as a result of road accidents in which drivers were distracted by texting or other activities.

Google says Glass is not meant to distract drivers but rather to connect them with the world around them, Reuters writes. The lobbyists Google has hired will be working to convince elected officials in Illinois, Delaware, and Missouri not to pass laws restricting drivers from wearing Google Glass while driving, Reuters reports, adding that lawmakers in New York, Maryland, and West Virginia — all of which introduced similar bills — say Google has not yet contacted them. New Jersey and Wyoming officials had not responded to Reuters‘ inquiries about Google Lobbyists.

Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Freeman Klopott and William Selway write that Google has hired lobbyists in Wyoming as well. The bills, which are in the early parts of the legislative process, could be difficult to enforce, Bloomberg writes. As this blog reported, last month a San Diego traffic court cleared Cecilia Abadie, 44, of a distracted driving charge after she was ticketed for driving while wearing Google Glass. The court cleared her because it had no way of knowing if she was actively using the device while driving.

Benjamin Kramer, a Democrat and Maryland House of Delegates member, told Reuters that because of such enforcement problems, Google Glass should be prohibited while driving altogether. Bloomberg Businessweek spoke with Jibo He, a Wichita State University, Kansas psychology professor and early user of Google Glass who conducted a study using Glass and a driving simulator. He said he is developing Glass applications that can detect driver fatigue and limit the programs that can be used while driving.

Christopher Chabris, a psychology professor at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., told Bloomberg Businessweek that Google Glass might trick drivers into thinking they are focusing on the road when they are lingering on a virtual speed display. “It’s a visual illusion,” he said.

Bloomberg quotes Richard Bennett, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, as saying that driving is one of the “premier” applications for Google Glass; it should be noted that Google Glass also enables a person to surf the Internet, take photos by blinking an eye, check e-mail, and watch videos. Bloomberg Businessweek ends its article this way:

If Google has its way, the issue may someday become moot. The company is developing technology for driverless cars.


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