Bills banning Google Glass while driving are toothless, professor says

Legislation aimed at barring the use of Glass have stalled in many states. One professor suggests changing the wording of the bills.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read


A handful of states have sought to bar the use of Google Glass -- the search giant's ambitious connected headset -- while driving, but one professor says the proposed legislation would be ineffective, even if the bills are passed.

Adam Gershowitz, a law professor at the College of William and Mary, wrote in a paper published this week that the laws that try to restrict Glass and other wearables would be "unenforceable" by police. The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the paper.

The reason is that most of the bills only forbid "using" Glass, or specifically, a head-mounted device while driving. Wearing the device is fine, but a police officer would have no way of knowing weather the device was actually in use, or just resting on someone's head. Proposals in Delaware, New Jersey, Wyoming, New York, Missouri and West Virginia all use that kind of language, the Journal said.

In Maryland and Illinois, proposals specifically ban even wearing a headset while driving, but that doesn't account for other wearables like smartwatches, which can also be distracting. All of the current proposed bills have stalled in the legislative process.

Still in its prototype days -- though available to the general public -- Glass has already seen its share of obstacles. The company has slowly rolled out the product since its introduction at Google's developer conference in 2012.

It's been at the center of some controversy, including being banned from some bars in the US and prohibited from movies theaters in the United Kingdom because of privacy and piracy concerns. Last month, Babak Parviz, who once led the Glass team and is credited with being the device's inventor, left Google for Amazon. Last October, a woman in California was ticketed for driving while using glass, though the charge was later thrown out.

Gershowitz said that while more than two dozen states have laws that allow hands-free use of cell phones while driving, the language around those laws create "loopholes" for Glass.

Instead of the wording of current proposals, Gershowitz suggests that bills disallow a person from driving "while wearing a wireless electronic communication device" or "while using a wireless electronic communication device."