The U.K. Is Already Worried About Drivers Wearing Google Glass

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 2 2013 10:12 AM

The U.K. Is Already Worried About Drivers Wearing Google Glass

An attendee tries Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This post originally appeared on IEEE Spectrum’s Tech Talk blog.

Drivers caught wearing Google Glass behind the wheel won't escape the long arm of the law in the United Kingdom. The U.K.'s Department of Transport is already working with police to prevent use of Google's augmented reality display on the road—even though the device won't go on sale for most people until 2014.


The U.K. move to block use of Google's smart glasses while driving comes in addition to existing penalties for using mobile phones without hands-free accessories, according to ZDNet. It's unclear whether the head-mounted glasses would fit under the existing law or a new law, but the U.K. already plans to raise fines for careless driving behaviors from £60 to £90 (about US $91 to $136).

Only U.S. members of Google's Explorer program can currently buy the $1,500 Explorer edition of the smart glasses. U.S. lawmakers in West Virginia have also aimed to block use of Google Glass among drivers in their own state legislature bill, but won't likely pass the bill until 2014.

Presumably any laws banning Google Glass would also extend to similar head-mounted smart glasses being developed by many other device manufacturers.

The spirit of such laws follows in the wake of legislation banning texting or other handheld phone use while driving, given that such activities have been proven to increase the risks of an accident on the road. Even voice-activated systems used for dictating an email or text message—or hearing the messages read aloud to the driver—can worsen driver distraction. (That's a serious problem when more than half of all new cars are expected to have voice recognition systems.)

Both lawmakers and researchers may also want to consider the possibly distracting effects of augmented reality displays being developed for the windshields of cars—something not all that different from Google's smart glasses. Allowing cars to have windshield displays showing emails or text messages might be just as bad as wearing smart glasses.

Given the current limitations on the human brain's attention capacity, drivers may not be able to safely enjoy their mobile and wearable computing devices until Google's other big projectself-driving robot cars—takes off.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Why Not Just Turn Campus Rape Allegations Over to the Police? Because the Police Don't Investigate.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.