Google‘s new smart, wearable glasses are set to join mobile phones on the driving blacklist. The Department for Transport has taken action to ban drivers from using Google Glass, and even before Google’s smart eyewear launches to the general public.
The government is concerned about the potential for distraction that could result from using Google Glass while driving and has taken pre-emptive strike ahead of Google’s new hardware release, scheduled for 2014.
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman has said “We are aware of the impending rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the Police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving. It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road.” They added: “A range of offences and penalties already exist to tackle those drivers who do not pay proper attention to the road including careless driving which will become a fixed penalty offence later this year.” We understand the DfT’s concerns centre on Google Glass’ possible potential for compromising a driver’s concentration. This is consistent with its position on hand-held mobile phone use while driving, a ban was introduced at the end of 2003 regarding these. Since then, more than a million drivers have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
The Glass ban is certain to disappoint tech lovers who had been looking forward to the prospect of eyeball navigation and other head-up display capabilities. It also shuts the door on app developers’ efforts to be able to exploit the in-car possibilities of the device, as has already been seen with GlassTesla in the US.
A driver using Glass would be likely to incur a £60 fixed penalty notice, plus three points on their licence, this penalty is identical to mobile phone use while driving. Road safety is obviously of paramount importance, but, I would imagine glancing up at the Glass’ screen in the periphery of your vision wouldn’t be more distracting than peeking at your windscreen sat-nav, and it’s certainly less distracting than looking down at a smartphone! Then there are other possible benefits to Glass, such as point-of-view recording of incidents that occur on the road.
Traditionally the law has focused on banning distractions that require you to take a hand off the wheel. You do need to tap your Glass or flick your head up to wake it, but it remains more hands-free than any hands-free car kit available. With irony, it is this hands-free technology that could be Glass’ undoing. With an “OK, Glass” and a few spoken commands you can make Google searches and stay up to date on Twitter etc, any of which would be distracting for a driver. Or it could be the fact that you need to look up to actually focus on the display. Or perhaps it’s the display is set to switch off after several seconds that the government thinks could drain a drivers’ concentration. None of these reasons demands an outright ban; instead, the DfT should be working with Google to find a solution, such as, implementing a car mode that allows adaptation to its behaviour and functionality for use on the road. Banning Glass for drivers is banning a plethora of innovative, useful and perhaps even safety-enhancing potentialities, a host of apps that you, I and Google haven’t thought of yet. Is the future bright or has it been shunned by our overlords?
[Image via hlntv]