Wearing Google Glass While Driving Leads to Traffic Ticket in Calif.

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-10-31
Google Glass

Wearing Google Glass While Driving Leads to Traffic Ticket in Calif.

Google Glass just got its first up-close look from the law when a Temecula, Calif., woman was stopped by a police officer and ticketed for speeding and wearing Google Glass while she was driving in San Diego on Oct. 29.

The driver, Cecelia Abadie, 44, who received her Glass device as a Google Glass Explorer back on May 1, quickly posted the details of her traffic stop on her Google+ page, 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.?"

In a telephone interview, Abadie told eWEEK that she was heading north on Interstate 15 from San Diego and heading home in her 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid when she was pulled over by a police officer who said she had been caught speeding. As the officer wrote the ticket, she said he also told her that he was writing her up for wearing Google Glass while driving, which he said was a violation of a law that forbids a driver from having a video screen that is visible while operating a motor vehicle.

"I'm definitely challenging it, mostly because I wasn't using Glass" while driving, said Abadie, who works as a product manager for a golf simulator company and who began a start-up that is developing a personal trainer app for Glass. "Right now, what I have to do is call back a few lawyers who have offered to help. Until you tilt your head or move your head to the side, you are not actively using Glass" or activating it.

She said she was using her car's built-in navigation system just before she was stopped by the police officer.

"Actually, I was surprised about both" infractions, she said. "I was confused about which [speed] zone I was in."

Once she was pulled over, the officer "was asking me all these questions like I was a criminal because I was wearing Google Glass," said Abadie. "I said, 'hold on, this is not illegal, right?' And he said it actually is illegal."

So far, there has been a lot of reaction to her Google+ post about her traffic stop, she said, with more than 500 comments being left by visitors so far. "It is a very tight Google Explorers community," which she is part of, she said. "In the end, it is a discussion worth having. Some people are scared about new technology and they think that this is going to add to the problem of texting while driving. This could be a solution. It's something to look at and debate."

In the meantime, she said, "We need to understand where we legally stand and where we want to go."

Wearing Google Glass While Driving Leads to Traffic Ticket in Calif.

Right now, the laws potentially regulating Glass are not clear, she said. "When I go driving later today, I don't know if that was just an interaction with one cop" who decided to ticket her, or "if it's an isolated thing or if it is more widespread. Should we drive with Glass now or not? People need to know."

The ticket received by Abadie is believed to be the first one issued by a California Highway Patrol officer for a Google Glass violation, the CHP told the Los Angeles Times. "CHP spokesman Jake Sanchez, in the San Diego office, said that while there has not been a specific directive to patrol officers about Google Glass, discouraging distracted driving is a priority," the paper reported. "Anything that takes your attention away from driving—putting on makeup, eating food, talking to a passenger, watching a video, talking on the phone—is dangerous," Sanchez  told the paper.

Individual officers have leeway in issuing a ticket for distracted driving, in this case in addition to a speeding violation, Sanchez told The Times. "It's every officer's own judgment on whether the law has been violated," he said.

The topic of Google Glass potentially being worn by drivers was raised in March 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 this year.

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, at which 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.

In February 2013, Google expanded its nascent test project for its Glass eyewear-mounted computer by inviting interested applicants to submit proposals for a chance to buy an early model and become part of its continuing development. In March, Google also began notifying a pool of applicants who were selected to purchase the first 8,000 sets of Google Glass when they become available for real-world use and testing later this year by consumers. Those selected applicants have been receiving their units in waves.

Rocket Fuel