The reality-augmentation spectacles Google Glass are meeting resistance even before their release, as another jurisdiction considers restrictions on their use.
Legislators in West Virginia are considering a bill that would ban using wearable computers while driving, even though people can't yet buy them.
Gary G. Howell, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature, proposed a bill last week that would impose the same restriction as the use of smartphones while driving. The legislation refers specifically to "a wearable computer with head mounted display" and stills allow the use of hands-free equipment to place or receive calls, but Google Glass wouldn't qualify in that category.
Howell said he actually likes the idea of Google Glass, when speaking to Cnet, but argued that young people, who are also the most vulnerable and under skilled drivers, would be the first to try the new device, and they would be distracted from driving. Arguably, reading a text message on Google Glass would be similar to texting and driving, which is unlawful in many jurisdictions. The ban, however, would to extend to law enforcement and emergency service officers, who might find Google Glass handy someday.
It's uncertain whether this proposal will actually become law, Howell admitted. But he believes that other legislatures will file similar bills, which could give Google headaches ahead of the launch of Google Glass this year or in early 2014.
Challenged before release
Wearing Google Glass while driving is only the latest contentious issue Google has to tackle. Earlier this month a Seattle bar banned Google Glass use on its premises in advance of the eyewear becoming publicly available, on the grounds that the device would allow video recording without customers' notice. It might be a publicity stunt to piggybank on the hype of the yet-unreleased product. But it's possible other privacy-minded venues could adopt similar policies.
Still, the states of Nevada, Florida, and California have passed laws permitting Google's autonomous cars on the road, as long as a human is behind the wheel. So should people be allowed do wear Google Glass while sitting in the driver's seat in one of Google's self-driving cars?
If other lawmakers decide to propose laws similar to West Virginia, they could be in effect banning a device that is designed to make smartphone-like communication hands-free. Google Glass showing you a text message in the corner of your eye is arguably safer than looking at your smartphone, and it would let you keep look at the road. so the device would actually reduce accidents than lead to more issues.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.