Glass Tech — A new distraction or a benefit?

dis-enf-10-ever-officials_lo_res-post-72-enA recent Slash Gear article (click HERE for full article) suggests that a new traffic application for google “glass” device may stimulate a fresh round of discussion about the potential distraction of surfing the web through your eyeglasses as you drive.

The central question is would there be a material benefit to a “heads up display” built into your glasses that:

  • is less distracting than other types of dash board displays
  • offers enough of a practical benefit/advantage without undue safety risk

Evidently, to activate the traffic app, a beta tester of google glass need only say out loud “OK Glass, traffic” to pull up a map of their current locations with the google maps traffic layer superimposed.

This would let a motorist know how bad the traffic stall is in terms of distance from current location and distance to nearest cross street or exit ramp, etc.

The article sums it up nicely:

In question is whether a head-mounted display would prove more or less of a distraction from the road versus, say, a more traditional touchscreen in the center console, or even a head-up display projected onto the windshield.

Additionally, the author reminds us of another recent Slash Gear article; “Google lobbying against Glass driving bans” (Click HERE) which states:

Google is fighting back against threats that Glass could be banned from use by drivers, lobbying US state officials in the hope of more nuanced guidelines than an all-out block on in-car wearable tech. The safety of head-mounted displays like Glass made headlines last year, after one “Glass Explorer” early-adopter was ticketed for distracted driving after being pulled over for speeding and found to be wearing Google’s experimental gadget.

The Explorer in question later saw the charges dismissed by a California court. However, despite some suggestions, the judge’s ruling in January was not on the safety of wearables like Glass while at the wheel, but merely based on the fact that traffic police could not prove the headset had been active at the time.

According to Reuters, Google is lobbying across three US states – Delaware, Illinois, and Missouri – in an attempt to curtail proposed legislation that could severely limit how wearables might be utilized while driving.

The key argument the company has made, it’s said, is that any of the suggested laws would be premature, given the relatively nascent development of Glass and other such devices…

It remains to be seen whether glass and any similar devices would be considered “safe” to use while driving if so much prior work has been done to document how even hand’s free communications may be a material distraction while driving.  One would imagine that the visual and cognitive distraction of reading an electronic image while driving would be more distracting than merely carrying a conversation through “hands free” connections.

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Update: “Google Glass”

Link — The Next Big Traffic Safety Debate: Google Glass.

While we’ve previously posted on the “Google Glass” device and whether it might pose a traffic safety distraction, here’s an update.

A driver from San Diego, California, has been ticketed for driving while wearing “Google Glass”.  The citation references CA Vehicle Code Section 27602 which says you can’t drive while some form of visual display is operating and is located in front of the driver’s seat or is otherwise visible to you while driving. Although mapping displays and GPS systems are allowed under that law, determining where wearing Google Glass fits in requires parsing a host of technicalities.

Other emerging technologies (like smartphones that get worn like a wrist watch) could open up interpretations of current law or trigger the creation of new regulations.

Regardless, our concern is with the level of distraction actually posed and whether it contributes to such a level of risk to warrant specific legislation such as texting while driving.