The issue of drivers being distracted by technology has long been debated, and as a result laws have been passed which make using certain devices such as mobile phones illegal while behind the wheel. However, as technology develops new debates are surfacing, especially as some devices claim to be ‘hands-free’ and therefore don’t break current laws.
There is an argument that even hands-free devices distract drivers however, which has led to numerous driving safety organisations campaigning for them to be banned altogether. Politicians are also struggling to keep up with the influx of new technology, such as the Google Glass which is currently more popular in the US than in the UK. One politician in New York, Félix Ortiz, has even gone so far as to say that he believes Google Glasses should be banned for those operating a vehicle.
Discussing his plans, Mr Ortiz said: “The recent case in California where a woman was ticketed for distracted driving because she was wearing ‘Google Glasses’ while driving highlights the need for legislation to expressly prohibit the use of this extremely dangerous technology. I will continue to fight to keep our highways safe as I have done for many years. ‘Google Glasses’ are becoming more and more popular and their use across the country is becoming widespread, however, no state currently has a strict prohibition on their use while driving.”
Google has already approached the issue of wearing Google Glasses while driving, and in their FAQ section on their website it says: “As you probably know, most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites. Explorers should read up and follow the law. Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road. The same goes for bicycling: whether or not any laws limit your use of Glass, always be careful.”
In fact, Google Glasses could even make driving safer due to an App developed by DriveSafe that will alert drivers if they are drifting off. In order to help drivers the App monitors their eye movement and plays an alert through the Google Glass bone conduction speaker if they appear to be falling asleep. Furthermore, the App can integrate with the Google Glass’s navigation system to guide drivers to a nearby area where they can rest.
If American politicians do decide to ban Google Glasses along with other forms of new in-car technology it’s very likely the same will happen here in the UK. This means drivers caught using such devices could be fined, receive points on their licence, invalidate their car insurance or even be arrested for endangering others on the road.
There are other issues when it comes to the safety of in-car technology however, not just whether they distract drivers while in charge of a vehicle. Privacy is becoming more of an issue due to the increase in usage of technology by people worldwide, and recently the US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit about his concerns. He was responding to claims made by Ford senior executive Jim Farley that the company could track drivers’ whereabouts using their GPS systems.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Mr Farley said: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone.” Not long after he retracted his comments and released a statement saying: “We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or their consent. The statement I made in my eyes was hypothetical and I want to clear this up.”
However, Mr Foxx said: “The technology that’s emerging raises questions, and we’re going to be responsive to those questions. But each technology is different, and each application of it is different, and we want to make sure that we’re striking the right balance between helping folks be safe but also making sure that their expectations of privacy are also weighed carefully.”