Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is lobbying against several bills being pursued by lawmakers that will prohibit the use of Google Glass while driving, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. Eight states are considering legislation that will limit the use of wearables like Glass while driving and Google is lobbying officials in at least three states to put a stop to the laws.
Google Glass is essentially a tiny computer screen in the corner of a glasses lens. While wearable technology is thought to represent the next big technology shift, much is still unknown about how the rising prevalence of devices like smart glasses and smartwatches will affect our day-to-day lives. Many are worried that devices like Glass will cause drivers to be easily distracted, leading to more automobile accidents. There are already laws prohibiting the use of smartphones while driving and large campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of texting and driving. According to Distraction.gov, in 2012 there were 3,328 deaths caused by distracted driving accidents.
If people already have a hard time not checking their phones while driving, then essentially having your smartphone attached to your face will make it even harder to resist checking your email or texting while on the road.
Reuters discovered that Google has sent lobbyists to speak with lawmakers from Illinois, Delaware, and Missouri. Officials from New York, Maryland, and West Virginia said that they have not been contacted by Google as of yet, and those behind similar bills in New Jersey and Wyoming did not respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.
Google argues that since Google Glass isn’t yet available to the general public it doesn’t need to be regulated. On the FAQ page for Google Glass, the company says that sometimes using Glass while driving can be acceptable, “It depends where and how you use it.” Google tells Glass users to be sure to follow the laws regarding the use of mobile devices while driving where they are. “Don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road,” Google says after ensuring users that sometimes it’s ok to use the device while driving.
Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Ill.) was not impressed with Google’s arguments against his bill, saying that the company’s motivation is driven by profit over concern for general safety. He told Reuters that Google’s device is clearly heading for being sold to the general public and should be regulated as something that will soon be available to consumers.
Conceivably, one could use Glass to access Google Maps, but the urge to engage with the device in other ways would be stronger and require more willpower to resist with a device that places its screen right in your line of sight. There are smartphone apps available that stop phones from receiving or sending text messages while the phone is in a moving car, which is perhaps something Google could install on Glass in order to make sure Glass users can only engage with navigation tools while driving.
Just last month, a California woman had a ticket for driving while wearing Google Glass dismissed by a San Diego court, per CNN. The case was the first traffic citation ever issued related to driving and wearing Glass and was dismissed on the grounds that it was impossible to tell beyond a reasonable doubt that the device was on when the woman was driving. Lawmakers are looking to deal with that issue by prohibiting Glass from being worn at all while behind the wheel.
Google said in a statement to CNN at the time that, “Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it. As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first.” Clearly, Google wants Glass users to be able to engage with the device while driving, but it’s still highly unclear if such behavior is safe.
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