Be Evil: Driving While Using Google Glass Should Be Legal, Says Google

A San Diego woman had her distracted driving ticket overturned last month because a judge rules police couldn't prove her Google Glasses were on while she was driving. Photo: San Diego Union Tribune
A San Diego woman had her distracted driving ticket overturned last month because a judge ruled police couldn’t prove her Google Glass device was on while she was driving. Photo: San Diego Union Tribune

Google Glass: Buying one will set you back $1,500. It makes even the most attractive people look ridiculous. It may or may not be the future of mobile technology.

A handful of states are trying to get out ahead of any risk this product might present to public safety. Bills bubbling up in eight states would ban the use of Google Glass while driving.

Meanwhile, Google (corporate motto: “Don’t be evil“) is actively lobbying against such legislation in Illinois, Delaware, and Missouri. In Illinois, according to Reuters, Google has hired Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former political director, John Borovicka, to try to defeat the measure. The Illinois legislature is expected to vote on it this spring.

California courts have already seen a case involving Google Glass. Last month a San Diego woman’s distracted driving ticket was overturned because a judge ruled that police couldn’t prove the device was on at the time.

Google has been arguing that legislation preventing the use of the technology while driving would be premature, since there are a limited number in circulation, Reuters reports. There are about 10,000 Google Glass devices being tested nationwide and they will likely start being sold to the general public sometime this year.

But regardless of how many Google Glass units are out there, the science on distracted driving is clear. Thousands of people are killed each year in the U.S. because of distracted drivers. People can’t safely use hands-free devices while driving — the human brain just isn’t wired for multi-tasking. So why should states put lives at risk by letting people use internet-enabled eyewear while they’re behind the wheel of a multi-ton machine?

  • Eric McClure

    The only cars in which Google Glass should be permitted are Google’s driver-less variety.

  • jd_x

    I will say this: Google is out of control and badly needs to be checked. They have this weird complex that somehow they know what is best (and of course it’s all about throwing technology at everything), and it’s gone from annoying and arrogant to downright dangerous. Google glasses are amazingly unnecessary in our society and clearly create all kinds of problems with privacy and, when driving, distractions. Add to this driverless cars which have massive implications for society which they are completely side-stepping in their ridiculous worship of technology (e.g. continuing to encourage car usage), and now all the weird AI/robotics research they are doing for the government, and you have a recipe for about as evil and ignorant as a company can get. Then you realize that they are completely integrated into everything you do due to their ubiquitous Gmail and associated programs, Android O/S, and of course their search engine, and this just keeps getting worse. I’m really frustrated by Google and feel like they have become a negative force in our society.

  • mcas

    …and now using your phone for map purpose isn’t distracted driving either. 🙁

  • Jeffrey Baker

    You say distracted, I say assisted? What if the Glass application is doing real-time image processing to identify upcoming crosswalks?

    Don’t outlaw something just because you don’t understand it.

  • Trying to use Google Glass while driving fails anyways:
    http://www businessinsider com/google-glass-is-useless-in-a-car-2013-5

    Actions taken by users to try to get around its deficiencies while driving will definitely fall under the classification of “distracted driving.”

  • Mario Tanev

    Please read Jeffrey Baker’s response on this.

    There should be laws that penalize severely for distracted driving. It shouldn’t matter what you do, as long as you are distracted. Google Glass has the potential to make driving safer by reminding the driver that something is up. Outlawing its use altogether would prevent such applications from being developed.

  • Komanoff

    Very glad to see Streetsblog get out in front in stopping this potentially dangerous mix of Google Glass and driving.

    Let Google prove it’s not dangerous and then, perhaps, it could be permitted in certain situations. But assuming it’s not defies common sense and puts the onus on society instead of on Google — a reversal of what’s safe and fair.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Honestly, I believe Google just wants to know where you are 24/7, what you are doing, what your spending/buying. What you are eating. Who you are associating with. Are the glasses there to help you, or to help them? Their data collection is massive.

    Next thing we will have is the Google chip implanted in everything you own including yourself. Stop before it’s too late.

  • Mark R. Brown

    I predict cities will begin banning Google glasses in bars, restaurants and other public venues once patrons begin to complain – that is if Google’s lobbyists don’t get to legislators first.

    Personally, I’d shun anyone wearing these things just out of concern of being audio/video taped without my knowledge.

  • thielges

    This “because we cannot prove that it was on” excuse seems inconsistent with how open container laws are enforced. A driver can be ticketed if a passenger is holding an open can of beer because the driver could have been drinking from that can. But there’s no way to prove that the driver was drinking in the car. Yeah, a breathalyzer test can prove that they have alchohol in their system though their drinking of a safe level of alcohol could have occurred before they got into the car, something that is completely legal.

    It seems like the only true way to resolve this is to enable law enforcement a way to determine what the device was displaying in the moments before the driver was pulled over. If it was running some sort of safety enhancing augmented reality app, then fine. If the driver was playing a game, watching a video, or browsing the net, then ticket.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    And remember, the data and the images collected will be used to create the society that Google wants you to have. And that may be in conflict with the society you want to have. But give everybody a little bit of Google to carry around with them, and suddenly when people don’t have their Google, outrage.

    But that fomenting outrage will be part of the deal. Because Google needs to suck in as many people into their massive data collection scheme.

  • MattyCiii

    I’m not normally a violent person but why do I have the compelling desire to punch that perp in the eye?

  • R.A. Stewart

    “Personally, I’d shun anyone wearing these things just out of concern of being audio/video taped without my knowledge.”

    And because, do you really want to hang out with someone who feels the need to have a mobile device on their face at all times?

  • baklazhan

    The difference is, I assume, that the legislature passed a law saying that open containers are illegal regardless of whether or not the driver is drinking from it, so there’s no need to prove anything beyond the fact that the open container was present.

    There’s no law that says you can’t have a phone on your face or in your hand, only that you can’t use it, so the police need to prove that it was being used. In practice, this may be difficult to impossible, leaving it de-facto legal.

  • Remy Marathe

    There oughta be a law.

  • Remy Marathe

    I’d shun anyone wearing those things just our of concern about being associated with people who would wear those things.

  • Remy Marathe

    We all have a real-time image processing in the wetware.

    People are already forgetting how to use it; please lets not give them any help.

  • Remy Marathe

    Sounds like a solution looking for a problem.

    I have a much simpler solution: keep your eyes on the road.

  • Considering that the tiny screens and cameras in Google Glass are overwhelmed by bright light, a good thing to do would be to carry around a small, bright LED flashlight, hold it up to your face at about eye level, and then shine it in the face of any unwelcome Google Glass user. This will allow them to experience just how uncomfortable other people feel around them when they’re wearing Google Glass, and its camera and screen won’t be operable when pointed in your direction.

    “Why are you pointing that bright light in my face?”
    “If you expect me to not mind your Google Glass, I’ll expect you to not mind this flashlight.”

  • “If it was running some sort of safety enhancing augmented reality app…”

    1. The way Google Glass works, the images on its screen are not overlaid in the center of your vision, which is what’s necessary for augmented reality. You’d have to tilt your head down and to the left, as if you’re looking down at your left foot, and then roll your eyes up and to the right so that you’re actually looking out through the screen. I don’t think this would be a recommended way to hold your head and eyes while operating a motor vehicle.

    2. That kind of app won’t be workable in bright daylight, anyway, because bright light washes out the little screen.

  • That little tiny camera, screen, and processor are wholly inadequate to do real-time image processing at motor vehicle speeds.

  • oooBooo

    The problem with “distracted driving” laws is they don’t punish distracted driving. They punish doing certain things while driving that might be a distraction that might impact driving for some/most/nearly all people.

    Distracted driving remains entirely legal and socially acceptable unless it is due to one of a few very specific things that are not socially acceptable. Daydreaming at a green signal is still signal still legal. Not paying attention to mirrors is still legal. Not looking directly ahead before pulling out into traffic is still legal. Much much more is legal and even acceptable.

  • oooBooo

    Chipping everything has been a long standing concept. It’s actually in the implementation phase. Smart meters have a capability known as the home area network. Devices so equipped can interface with the smart meter. In fact the smart meter can extract data and issue commands to these devices. The smart meter in turn communicates with the electric utility. Utilities will say this a conspiracy theory. They largely are not using it at present. However, the capability is there. Just search out home area netowork (HAN) to read up on it.

    There also has been a paper written on how smart meters can monitor older devices using back EMF to indentify them when they are in operation.

    The HAN concept seems to have supplanted the older ideas using broadband over power lines.

    Chipping everyone has also been a long standing idea. However I think that there is enough resistance to keep that at bay for some time. Instead cell phones, tablets, google glasses, RF ID tags in clothing, shoes, ID’s, credit cards, etc will be used for the foreseeable future. These surrogates have largely made the need of chipping people go away. But at some point getting chipped to buy stuff may become the new cool thing to do.

    Anyway google is just a piece of the greater puzzle. Tax by mile, tracking fare cards, NSA data spying, and much much more all feed towards the same ends.

  • MatthewEH

    Ugh. I don’t like the slant of this post at all. Even apart from the fact that it seems to have brought out the tinfoil hat crowd in droves.

    Here’s what seems to be missing from this post, and from the ensuing comments: wearing Glass is intended to be something the user does habitually, even she has no reasonable expectation whatsoever of using it at that particular moment or for her current activity. The woman in San Diego says she wasn’t using Glass at all when she was pulled over, and this is actually quite credible. The open question is how should this phenomenon translate into law and enforcement thereof.

    IMO, the distraction level of passively wearing Glass while driving will fall somewhere on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, it may be that users seem to have trouble resisting its digital siren lure, and it’s fully as distracting as conducting constant cellphone conversation while driving. [I totally buy the arguments that hands-free, in-car phone setups are just as distracting as hand-held, btw; and if it were enforceable, I’d want anti-distracted-driving laws to include handsfree setups equally.] On the other end of the spectrum, it may be more like the distraction level of having a clock on the dashboard.

    In the absence of specific evidence about how these devices will fare in practice, it seems to me the law should be alert to the possibility this may need regulation, but not to assume it must be necessary before any real data is in.

    Full disclosure, Google is my employer, though I do not work on Glass or related efforts. Obviously I am just speaking for myself.

  • BlueFairlane

    My eyes do real-time image processing that lets me identify upcoming crosswalks far more quickly than google glasses could manage.

  • DD

    Is anyone else bothered by the fact that the Glass itself appears to block peripheral vision on the right side? The shadow on the woman’s face in the pic above says it all–she cannot see cyclists approaching in the bike lane, people about to cross the street, etc. It’s hard enough to get people to check their blind spots; this is only going to make it worse.

  • ubrayj02

    This lady couldn’t be bothered to put on something other than a t-shirt for her big press conference? WTH lady. How are you going to market the shiny bright future of technograndiosity in the duds of the working poor.

  • Driving with an open container of alcohol in your car is illegal, too, even if you haven’t (yet) taken a drink from it.

    If one presumes that driving while wearing an active Google Glass is a distracting activity, then driving while wearing an inactive one is the equivalent of driving with an open container in the car, and should be similarly banned.

    Let’s go ahead and have some studies to find out if driving while wearing an active Google Glass is distracting. In the meantime, as this can cause dangerous, maybe potentially lethal situations, and any actual benefit to the driver is merely a minor degree of convenience, it is reasonable for safety’s sake to disallow it until the results of the studies are available.

    As for wearing Google Glass being something that is intended to be habitual, then that is actually a design flaw. There are going to be situations and/or locations where it is incontrovertibly banned, such as the way phones with cameras are banned in gym locker rooms. There is a growing list of bars that are banning Google Glass. Anywhere else that recording devices are banned is sure to include Google Glass as a prohibited device. Google Glass was even banned from a Google shareholder meeting. So people who wear Google Glass are just going to have to get used to the fact that they simply can’t just leave it on their face at all times.

  • Jason

    You would have to ban any and all screens in the car, including cell phone.

  • Jason

    Only if they’re allowed to put you on your butt. If you deliberately get in anyones face, don’t expect not to be punched. Peace mate!

  • Jason

    Sound like overreacting to something not even out yet, but that is fairly typical.

  • Ah, escalation to physical violence! Is that what one should expect of Google Glass users? A striking addition to their reputation. (No pun intended, but I’ll take it anyway as a side effect. 🙂

    Some people might consider taking a punch worth it to get that violent individual 86’ed from that establishment for life, and potentially charged with assault.

  • Jason

    And what you’re threatening to do is battery, not really expect you to know the difference. But hey Google is your friend, go look it up! But whatever man, do what ever your going to do. Just know that if you harass people you’re breaking the law and really if someone does punch yoiu, their pretty justified. Just fyi if you see someone wearing Google glass they could care less about taking your picture, just like everyone you passed holding their cell phones.

  • Uh huh, let’s see how quickly a court throws out a case of “battery” based on a person shining a flashlight at someone else standing near them.

    Unless by “battery” you’re referring to the power source inside the flashlight. 😉

  • Jason

    Well if thats the course your taking in life, thats your choice.

  • “Don’t be afraid, I’ve got a flashlight!”

  • Never mind that actively using a cell phone while driving is already against the law in a large number of jurisdictions. 😉

  • Remy Marathe


    27602. (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television
    receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any
    other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or
    video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is
    operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of
    the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor,
    screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor


San Diego Planners Envision a Future With More Driving

When it comes to forward-looking transportation and planning policy, California is out in front of other states, with legislation that requires regional agencies to incorporate carbon reduction goals into their transportation plans. But not all regions are up to the challenge. San Diego seems to be having a hard time mustering the political will to adapt, as […]

Driving Apps Are Incompatible With Safe Driving

Transportation apps aimed at drivers are increasingly ubiquitous. There are apps to help people find a parking space, or to allow drivers to report a pile-up on the interstate to other drivers in real time. But as Ryan Holeywell at Governing Magazine recently pointed out, these apps pose a serious danger to the public. We […]