Wyoming among states eyeing laws to ban Google Glass while driving

Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:40pm EST

Defendant Cecilia Abadie, wearing Google Glass, arrives at a traffic court in San Diego January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Defendant Cecilia Abadie, wearing Google Glass, arrives at a traffic court in San Diego January 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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(Reuters) - Sparsely populated Wyoming, whose natural beauty draws tourists from around the globe, is among a small number of U.S. states eyeing a ban on the use of wearable computers while driving, a move that appears to target Google Glass.

Wyoming state Senator Floyd Esquibel, a Democrat who crafted the bill to ban such devices behind the wheel, said he wanted to ensure safeguards are in place before the technology premiered by Google - a tiny computer mounted to an eyeglass frame - is widely available.

"Common sense would tell you that you really don't need to look at a little computer while driving, that it endangers you, your passengers and other drivers," he said of the bill he introduced this month. The legislature will convene to consider new bills in February.

Wyoming is among at least seven U.S. states eyeing restrictions on the technology over concerns that drivers wearing Google Glass may pay more attention to their email or other online endeavors than the road.

Other states considering measures that would ban use of wearable computers while driving are Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Google Glass, which projects a small screen above a corner of a wearer's eye, is expected to become a major catalyst for what many believe to be the next big trend in mobile, wearable computing devices.

But in a high-profile California case that raised new questions about distracted driving, one of thousands of people testing Google Glass was ticketed for wearing the device while driving after being stopped for speeding in October.

Cecilia Abadie later got her ticket, for using a "visual" monitor in her car while driving, thrown out because of a lack of proof the device was operating at the time. Her speeding ticket was also dismissed.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

The case nevertheless renewed debate about distracted driving, which was linked to car crashes that caused injuries to an estimated 421,000 people in the United States in 2012, up 9 percent from 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Esquibel, member of a state Senate transportation panel, successfully pushed in 2010 for Wyoming to outlaw driver texting, which is already banned in most states. Some states also ban the use of handheld mobile phones while driving.

He said the proposed ban on the use of wearable computers while driving faces an uncertain fate in a Republican-led legislature in a state known for its ambivalence toward government regulations.

In information about Glass posted online by Google, the company advises those engaged in field tests - dubbed Explorers - to abide by state laws that limit use of mobile devices while driving.

"Above all, even when you're following the law, don't hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road," the company says.

Asked Wednesday about legislation restricting use of devices like Glass, Google said Explorers should use the device responsibly and put safety first: "Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it."

U.S. travel group AAA said it has "serious concerns about the safety elements of these technologies" on the road.

"Our feeling and perspective is that safety should take the greater priority over convenience when it comes to using personal electronic technology, particularly when driving," AAA spokeswoman Nancy White said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Dan Grebler)

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Comments (2)
Kahnie wrote:
Distraction? Distraction? No only is the driver concentrating on the road AND the computer, the driver is blinded in one eye. The driver loses some vision and is in fact driving with one eye. I know. Because I am partially blind in one eye, I WILLINGLY gave up my license to drive because I was a danger to anyone around me, especially alongside, but also to myself and passengers. Google admonition about safe driving is a canard, like “Don’t drink and drive.” It’ll take some deaths, unfortunately to stop this madness. Talking on the phone is bad enough, texting is worse, this takes away some sight.

Jan 29, 2014 8:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
FutureRoads wrote:
As with most of these kinds of comments about how distracting Glass is, its obviously written by someone who has never worn them. You can tell that by the “blind in one eye” comment.

Using Glass for navigation is MUCH less distracting than using a normal GPS or smart phone. And when using Glass for navigation the display DOES NOT STAY ON as it does with other devices. If you need to see a map you can tap on it to turn on the display. It tells you by voice when you have turns to make etc.

Speaking of the display not staying on, many drivers I see with GPS units in their car mount them on the windshield. The problem with this is the distraction and effect that has on your vision at night. Ask anyone with military training about the effect of lights on your night vision.

Can Glass be a distraction for drivers? Sure .. if they try to update Facebook or whatever while driving. But as Ron White says “You can’t fix stupid”

If these legislators REALLY want to improve public safety (vs just wanting some publicity) then focus on enforcing the MANY laws ALREADY on the books for speeding, not having your lights on when it raining, driving with parking lights on instead of headlights in fog, rain or at night, etc. etc.

Feb 03, 2014 8:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
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