I’ve read a lot over the past several weeks about Google Glass, which keeps you constantly connected and puts the internet right in front of your eyes (or more accurately, eye). The idea is that you can do whatever you’re normally doing, while remaining in touch visually.
In theory, it’s a great idea for those who feel such a need. But in reality, I think it’s a recipe for disaster…literally.
As someone who spends a lot of time working in the traffic safety field, through clients like The National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit group, and the government’s NHTSA, I’ve come to understand that driving a car requires full attention. Driving is not something you can do safely while you’re multitasking.
There are three types of distraction, and Google Glass falls into at least two of them. There’s visual, aural and cognitive distraction. All can and do take your attention off the road in front of you, and when you’re moving at highway speeds of 60 miles an hour, you travel the length of a football field in 3 or 4 seconds. That’s how long it takes to read or send a text. So while you look at or send a text, you’re basically driving blind the length of a football field. Doesn’t sound too smart or safe, does it?
Google says that since its Glass displays information in front of you, you don’t have to look down and you can still see what’s in front of you. I don’t know about that. I had the chance to try an earlier version of Google Glass a few months ago. It’s cool, but it IS distracting. And when your eye is looking at the displayed information an inch or two in front of it, it can’t also focus clearly on thje road and cars or people 20 or 50 feet in front of you. The eye just doesn’t work that way.
I also read this week about new displays that automaker Jaguar hopes to introduce soon, that show key information like speed, gas level, perhaps travel or map info – all on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. To me, that sets up the same risk for visual distraction as Google Glass.
So I have to wonder … where is the Government here? Very simply, laws should be passed, based on NHTSA recommendations, that make driving while wearing Google Glass illegal, just as in 38 states it’s now illegal to text while you drive. And they should also be discouraging or preventing automakers from introducing line-of-sight displays that take the driver’s eyes – or the eyes’ focus – off the road ahead. The same should be done to prevent visual controls and displays for non-driving functions like the sound system, hands-free phones and even GPS maps and driving info. Audio cues are ok, but the maps and mapped driving directions are a serious distraction.
I hate to sound like a “bah humbug” about this exciting and helpful new technology, but some limits need to placed on it. Why? I’ll tell you why… it could be your kid or mine who gets killed by a driver distracted by Google Glass, line-of-sight displays or a GPS.
And then it will be too late.