Google Glass driver pleads not guilty to digital distraction

Chris Davies - Dec 4, 2013
Google Glass driver pleads not guilty to digital distraction

The first Google Glass Explorer issued a traffic citation for distracted driving has pleaded not guilty, arguing that the wearable was not in fact active or even covered by the citation code while she was in motion. Cecilia Abadie was stopped by the California Highway Patrol in October 2013 for speeding, but had a further citation added on, USA Today reports, for a reason more normally associated with in-dashboard video screens being active during driving. In a San Diego court today, Abadie pleaded not guilty to both charges.

According to the early-adopter, the Glass headset she was wearing was not actually active while she was driving. However, when she looked up at the traffic officer, the head-tilt sensor triggered the eyepiece, and the wearable switched on.

Glass has an optional hands-free trigger to activate it. Usually, tapping the touchpad on the side of the wearable wakes it; however, a preset degree of head-tilt can be set to turn it on as an alternative, something which Adadie says she fell foul of when pulled over.

However, her case also contends that the citation code under which Adadie was charged does not cover wearable devices such as Glass. Instead, her lawyer argues, it is intended to address the potential for distraction by video or TV playback from an in-dashboard screen.

Whether Adadie had been actively using Glass or not, the wearable is only likely to further confuse the evolving driver-distraction laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed tough rules on what increasingly complex infotainment systems will be allowed to do while a car is in motion, in addition to pushing for those texting or otherwise using their phones to be pestered into putting them down.

Back in 2012, the NHTSA suggested guidelines that would cripple advanced touchscreen functionality in cars; some car manufacturers have responded by re-introducing physical controls for key functions.

Exactly whether Glass – one function of which is driving navigation directions – falls into the same category is unclear, and it may fall to the ensuing trial in January 2014 to settle the matter. California Highway Patrol spokesperson Fran Clader suggested that “this has to play out in court” before a legal position is decided on.

Several US states have proposed legislation which could ban Glass-style wearables from being used during driving, while similar laws are being discussed in the UK.

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