With Google Glass Available to the Public, Safety Concerns Mount
With Google’s promo Tuesday, allowing the general public to buy Google Glass (GG) on that day only (first-come, first-served, as the supply was limited), questions remain about how safe it is to drive while wearing the head-mounted display. As Aarti Shahani writes for npr.org’s all tech considered blog, at least eight states have proposed legislation banning the use of GG while driving. Until Tuesday, the device was only available to certain early adopters (“explorers”) invited by Google to purchase it, at a cost of $1,500.
As this blog has reported, California resident Cecilia Abadie, 44, was ticketed last year for driving while wearing GG, but was acquitted of the charges in traffic court in January. San Diego Traffic Commissioner John Blair found that wearing Google Glass could be considered distracted driving under the traffic code, but police need to prove that it was turned on. And that can be hard to prove.
Shahani notes that GG “is the ultimate multitasking machine” and quotes West Virginia Republican state Delegate Gary Howell as saying “lawmakers need to act before the situation gets out of hand.” Howell is concerned that a driver can wear it and watch a video screen instead of paying attention to the road.
And Ira Silverstein, a Democratic state senator from Illinois, points out that although GG is hands-free, it can affect a driver’s vision. In the bill he wrote, a first offense for driving while wearing GG would be a misdemeanor, and the second one “if, God forbid [it] causes death, could be a felony,” he told Shahani.
Shahani writes about being a passenger in the car of a young man named Shane Walker, who wore and used GG while driving in northern California. GG does something a smartphone can’t do, Shahani writes. For example, as Walker drove past a fire hydrant, Glass started streaming obscure facts about fire hydrants, which Walker read as he drove. Walker said he was not distracted because he could see through the transparent screen as he read the text on it, Shahani writes.
However, Earl Miller, an MIT neuroscience professor, told Shahani that is an illusion, and “can often lead to disastrous results.” Miller explains: “You think you’re monitoring the road at the same time, when actually what you’re doing [is] you’re relying on your brain’s prediction that nothing was there before, half a second ago — that nothing is there now.”
In one of more than 100 comments to the NPR article, William Barnett-Lewis writes:
When (not if, _when_) someone dies because of these distractions the charge should be intentional homicide. It is not an accident or even negligence when you’re choosing to use something like this while driving: it’s playing Russian roulette where after you spin the cylinder you hold the pistol up to someone else’s head and start pulling the trigger.
J. O’Dell writes for Venture Beat that there will soon be more than 16 varieties of Google Glass to choose from. While not all of the prices are posted, the ones Venture Beat‘s Dean Takahashi lists range from $25 for EmoPulse’s nanoGlass-4 (not yet available), to Vuzix’s $6,000 M2000AR head-mounted display, which is available now.