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.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

The Secret Service’s Big Problems Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
Oct. 2 2014 11:34 AM Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Putting teenage girls on trial may finally be too much for the Supreme Court.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 11:35 AM Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar’s New Video Is Somehow Both Creepy and Joyful
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:41 AM Dropbox Recruiting Video Features Puppets and Data Privacy
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?