Google Glass faces driver-distraction ban in UK over safety fears

Jul 31, 2013
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Google Glass is likely to face a ban for in-car use in the UK, with government regulators supposedly concerned that the wearable will be too distracting to drivers. The decision, still yet to be made official, could put use of Glass - which offers a driver navigation mode, among other features - in the same "careless driving" category as using a cellphone while behind the wheel, Stuff reports.

Glass is still a work-in-progress for Google, though one of the most useful features of the headset is its ability to give discrete navigation directions. Linked to a smartphone, the wearable can show a pared-back map and compass-led route indicators for those taking a car, a bike, or a pedestrian journey.

However, while the details given in the eyepiece are less comprehensive than on, say, a smartphone display - they don't include nearby points-of-interest, for instance - the fact that Glass offers messaging, photography, and other functionality seems to have raised concerns. The result is likely to be an early inclusion of wearables in driver-distraction regulations, ahead of Glass' commercial release.

"We are aware of the impending rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the Police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving. It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road. A range of offences and penalties already exist to tackle those drivers who do not pay proper attention to the road including careless driving which will become a fixed penalty offense later this year" UK Department for Transport spokesperson

Those penalties, currently predominantly affecting cellphone users, could see fixed fines of around £60 ($90) as well as points on the driver's license for anybody caught using Glass while also at the wheel.

It's unclear if US regulators will pass similar laws, though driver distraction is already a controversial topic at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Last year, the agency announced it was considering placing limits on in-car touchscreens as they presented an increased risk of drawing attention away from the road, later leading to requests for car manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the amount of dashboard gadgets they included.

Ford has already moved to restore physical controls to its cars, though it's questionable whether even advanced hands-free systems will be enough to satisfy safety advocates. Recent research indicates that distraction levels when using Bluetooth headsets and voice navigation prompts are sometimes equally as high as when consulting screens.


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