Bicyclist wearing Google Glass

Bicyclist wearing Google Glass. Coutesy

A new study finds that Google Glass is just as distracting to drivers as texting on a smartphone, as Gabrielle Karol writes for Fox Business. The study, “Google Glass: A Driver Distraction Cause or Cure,” will appear in an upcoming issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, according to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society website.

To conduct the research, Ben Sawyer and his team at the University of Central Florida, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory, tested 40 drivers in their 20s on a car simulator, with either Google Glass or a smartphone, according to an article posted on UCF’s website. The test subjects were required to “drive” while sending text messages, either by dictating via Google Glass or typing on a smartphone. The subjects were then forced to slam on their brakes when the vehicle in front of them stopped suddenly, writes Jared Newman for PC World.

Those results were compared with the participants’ reactions on those devices when they were driving without multitasking, UCF writes. As Newman reports: “The test found no significant difference in reaction time between drivers who dictated messages with Glass and drivers who typed the message on an Android smartphone.”

He adds:

Why it matters: In theory, Glass should be as good as it gets for texting by voice while driving, as the head-mounted display lets users keep their eyes forward. This new study shows that interacting with a computer is a distraction no matter which way your eyes are facing. Studies like this could have legal implications as Google lobbies lawmakers to allow Glass behind the wheel, and as more auto makers add voice dictation features to their vehicles.

The study also found that the drivers who used Google Glass recovered faster from near-collisions, and did a better of job of driving in a straight line while texting. But on the negative side, they drove closer to the car in front of them, which gave them less time to react to a short stop by the driver ahead of them, Newman writes. He notes that a study done last year at the University of Utah found that using a text-to-speech interface is one of the most distracting things a driver can do, and a Texas A&M study found that voice dictating was as distracting as typing, while giving drivers a false sense of security.

Because of the findings of this new UCF study, law enforcement officials may have a harder time cracking down on distracted driving with new technological advancements, Newman writes. He writes that because all voice dictation puts those on the road at risk of car accidents, it makes little difference if a driver is wearing a head-mounted display or not. If only we could skip ahead to when cars will drive themselves,” he opines. This blog has written about the dangers of using Google Glass while driving.

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