Don't Glass and drive -- lawmakers seek to ban Google Glass on the road

West Virginia lawmakers are already pouncing on the existence of Google Glass and introducing a bill that would prohibit drivers from making a spectacle of themselves.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Subway, yes. Behind the wheel, no. Noah Zerkin/Twitter With Permission

Dabbling in politics can bring troubling consequences.

So here at Technically Incorrect, we prefer to keep our distance, because, from a distance, our laughter can still be heard quite well.

However, I received a curious message last night from Gary G. Howell, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature.

It read: "Your article on Google Glass prompted this bill."

The only bills I'd ever previously inspired were $20 ones accompanied by the words: "Here's money for a taxi. Get out of here."

So I wondered what sort of bill this could be. It transpires that West Virginia has decided to think proactively about Google Glass.

This bill seeks to make it illegal to drive while "using a wearable computer with head mounted display."

I asked Howell how this had suddenly come about. Oddly enough, he is not an opponent of Google's fascinating nerdgear.

He told me:

I actually like the idea of the product and I believe it is the future, but last legislature we worked long and hard on a no-texting-and-driving law. It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and underskilled drivers. We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension.

It's fascinating that he believes West Virginia's young might be prepared to pay $1,500 to look quite silly and get immediate news of the rodeo results pumped to their eyeballs.

However, Howell told me he supports this legislation because of his political beliefs.

"I am a libertarian, and government has no business protecting us from ourselves, but it does have a duty to make sure I don't injure or kill someone else," he explained.

So he's looking to enact very strict gun control laws, yes?

No, wait. He believes that "when I choose to use the Google Glass and cross the center-line of the road because I'm reading a text, then my actions affect someone else."

It's hard to argue against this logic, though it doesn't seem to include drivers coming in the other direction, seeing a cyborg at the wheel of an oncoming car and dipping instinctively into the fetal position.

Howell isn't sure that this bill will pass, but he is convinced that other legislatures will follow his lead.

Opponents of Google Glass are beginning to marshal their thoughts and numbers. They cite various reasons, including, quite naturally, privacy concerns.

Google, meanwhile, has cleverly positioned the product as just a beautifully human addition.

I have contacted Google to see whether the company might offer its own long view of the West Virginia legislation.

It is clear, though, how Google sees your future. Of course you'll be fine wearing Google Glass in your car.

Your car will drive itself, after all. And you will then be a citizen of the United States of Googleworld.

No passport will be required. Google will know where you are all the time.

Updated 2:27 p.m. PT: Google contacted me and offered this statement: "We are putting a lot of thought into the design of Glass because new technologies always raise new issues. We actually believe there is tremendous potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce accidents. As always, feedback is welcome."

Perhaps the first feedback will come from those guinea pigs who will get Glass first, as so-called "Explorers." Who will be the first to "explore" on, say, the 405?