Lawmaker: Google Glass and driving don't mix

Monday, March 25, 2013 - 5:00pm

Google Glass, the tech giant's Internet-connected headset, isn't on the market yet. But that hasn't stopped one lawmaker from trying to keep the eyewear off the highways in his state.

In a pre-emptive move, West Virginia state Rep. Gary G. Howell introduced legislation Friday that would amend existing laws against texting while driving to prohibit "using a wearable computer with head mounted display." The bill doesn't mention Google Glass by name, although Howell told CNN he was inspired to amend the law after reading an article about the gadget.

If passed, the law would make West Virginia the first U.S. state to ban motorists from wearing Google Glass while driving, a Google spokesman said. The law would take effect July 1.

"The primary thing is a safety concern," Howell said in an interview. "It (the Glass headset) could project text or video into your field of vision. I think there's a lot of potential for distraction."

Announced last year, Google Glass is an augmented-reality headset that looks like a thin pair of eyeglasses and can be controlled by voice commands. Above and to the right of the wearer's right eye is a small screen that can display Google search results, e-mails, reminders and other information.

The device also comes equipped with a tiny camera that can snap photos and record videos.

Google Glass is not expected to go on sale until late this year at the earliest. A price has not been announced, although the company has been selling a limited number of pre-order models, targeted at developers, for $1,500.

Asked about the proposed West Virginia law, a Google spokesman sent the following statement:

"We are putting a lot of thought into the design of Glass because new technologies always raise new issues. We actually believe there is tremendous potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce accidents. As always, feedback is welcome."

For example, Google has said its Glass headset could offer turn-by-turn navigation, with voice commands, to enhance the driving experience.

Google has said one goal of its Glass project is to make technology available when users need it but unobtrusive when they don't. The company said the screen on its Glass headset actually sits above the wearer's normal field of vision, not unlike a car's sun visor, and is meant for quick glances, not prolonged viewing.

Google Glass has generated a lot of buzz in tech circles and beyond, with many wondering aloud about its practical applications, potential privacy concerns and its promise, for better or worse, of constant connectedness.

Although he doesn't want to see it on his state's roads, even Howell says he is intrigued.

"I think it's pretty interesting," the state representative said. "I wouldn't mind trying it."  

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