Ticketed Google Glass Driver in California Has Case Dismissed

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-01-17

Ticketed Google Glass Driver in California Has Case Dismissed

Wearing Google Glass while driving is apparently not the same thing as using Google Glass while driving, at least according to a California traffic court judge who on Jan. 16 heard what is believed to be the first traffic ticket case in the United States involving the futuristic device.

San Diego Traffic Court Commissioner John Blair dismissed a ticket for speeding and wearing Google Glass that had been filed against Cecelia Abadie, 44, of Temecula, Calif., after he ruled that the arresting officer had not observed her actually using the head-mounted computer, Abadie's attorney, William Concidine, told eWEEK.

"When he testified, he testified that he saw her wearing Google Glass," Concidine said of the California State Patrol officer who had ticketed her last Oct. 29 as she was heading north on Interstate 15 from San Diego in her 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid. "But at no time did he testify that he saw it in use. Because he did not establish the element that it was operating, he failed to prove his own case," Concidine said. "He never testified to anything being an image on Google Glass or that it was lit up. Miss Abadie would have testified that she was not operating it" while she was driving.

Blair also dismissed the speeding charge against Abadie, who works as a product manager for a golf simulator company and who began a startup that is developing a personal trainer app for Glass.

Abadie told eWEEK in a phone interview that she is pleased with the court's decision.

"I feel very good that the law … worked exactly the way it should have," she said. "My friends who are also [Google Glass] Explorers, they were very happy about this decision, too. They love to drive with Glass and they feel it is safe."

Abadie said that as a hands-free device while driving, she likes using Glass and feels it is safer to use than other hands-free devices, such as hands-free enabled smartphones. "Instead of reading a text [a user receives while driving] you can say, 'OK Glass, read it out loud,'" said Abadie. "Glass is pretty safe if you use it reasonably. With the current law, it's almost impossible to prove if someone would be using it while they are driving."

In December 2013, Abadie decided to go to court to fight the original charges against her. At a hearing, she pleaded not guilty and had her trial date set for Jan. 16. She argued at the hearing that she was only wearing the device and not using it when she was stopped.

Ticketed Google Glass Driver in California Has Case Dismissed

Abadie received her Glass device as a Google Glass Explorer on May 1, 2013, and quickly posted the details of her traffic stop on her Google+ page on the day she was ticketed, expressing shock about the Glass citation and seeking any and all legal advice.

"A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving!" wrote Abadie. "The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass). Is #GoogleGlass illegal while driving or is this cop wrong??? Any legal advice is appreciated!! This happened in California. Do you know any other #GlassExplorers that got a similar ticket anywhere in the U.S.?"

The ticket received by Abadie is believed to be the first one issued by a California Highway Patrol officer for a Google Glass violation. Officers have leeway for ticketing drivers who are operating motor vehicles while distracted, whether by cell phones, eating, reading or participating in other distracting activities.

Concidine represented Abadie for free in this case after reading about her plight. "Rarely do you get an interesting case in traffic court," he told eWEEK. This case disproved that theory, he said.

The topic of Google Glass potentially being worn by drivers was raised in March 2013 in West Virginia, where a state legislator introduced a bill that would have banned driving by persons wearing head-mounted displays, including Google Glass. But the bill stalled and never came up for a vote in 2013.

The proposed ban on driving while wearing head-mounted displays was introduced in the state's legislature by Gary Howell, a Republican state representative in West Virginia's 56th district. Howell's main concern with the devices is that they create safety issues such as driver distraction, especially for younger, less-experienced drivers who might be among the users most likely to buy such technology. The proposed West Virginia law would have implemented a fine of $100 for a first offense, and $200 to $300 fines for subsequent offenses.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development; it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.


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