Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Lawmakers in West Virginia have proposed a new bill that bans wearing the new Google Glass device while driving.  (For background info on this high-tech headpiece, see fellow blogger Katie Kuhn’s post.)  The bill would subject drivers who use “a wearable computer with a head-mounted display” to a fine.

Apparently prompted by a CNET article about the Glass device’s capabilities, the West Virginia legislature worried that the Glass-enabled visual access to vast arrays of information would be too distracting for drivers.  Well, not just any drivers, specifically those pesky youths, that bevy of inexperienced drivers who believe they’re perfectly capable of texting while driving blindfolded and with one hand tied behind their backs.  Having just recently passed a no-texting-while-driving law, representatives felt that all the bells and whistles of Google Glass would prove too much temptation (at about $1500 a pop?) for young people. Delegate Gary Howell, who introduced the bill, explained that, while he’s actually a fan of Glass in general, “It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and underskilled drivers. We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension.”

Google, however, may take issue with Glass being described as an overly distracting piece of technology.  As blogger Liz Gannes points out, Google initially developed Glass at least partly so that it would be less distracting than a regular smart phone.  While it may be hands-free, however, it still displays incoming calls, texts, alerts, and the like on the screen in front of the eye, potentially blocking some view of the road or drawing drivers’ focus away from their surroundings.  This visible prompt might actually be helpful, however, if it’s giving you (Google Maps) directions so that you’re not looking down at your hand-held device trying to figure out how you got so lost (oh, that’s right, you tried to use Apple Maps).

But for those Joneses who simply must be kept up with, Google is hard at work on something to solve the problem it’s helping to create:  a driverless vehicle.  That project may eventually let you have your cake and eat it, too.  As fellow contributor Matt Ginther explains, however, despite some rather convincing evidence of the vehicle’s safety, Google is also facing resistance to this new technology from those worried about potential liability questions.

Thus, notwithstanding the company’s best efforts, there are at least a few people willing to stand in the way of a World According to Google.

Kendall Short

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