Cecilia Abadie, a recently naturalized American citizen who is such a fan of Google Glass that she recently gave a local TED talk on the subject, was ticketed for wearing the device while driving by a California Highway Patrol officer in San Diego. She took to her Google+ page Tuesday night to share the ticket, and asked for legal advice from fellow Google enthusiasts.
Though the technology has until now been available to only a few “Explorers” chosen as testers, the company has signaled its intent to expand the technology to new customers. A mystery barge floating in the San Francisco Bay is believed by many to be a prototype store to sell the devices. But this new legal wrinkle in use of the technology presents an unexpected complication for adopters.
Google Glass is a smartphone-like, hands-free device which can be worn by the user, resembling a pair of glasses without lenses. An optical screen slightly above the wearer’s right eye displays information. “Explorers” chosen to test the new technology currently pay $1,500 for the privilege, picking up the device from Google employees in person at purposefully chosen scenic locations, such as a San Francisco high-rise penthouse suite, where they receive an hour-long demonstration and are encouraged to use the Glass technology to photograph the view.
“The worst place to demo Glass is in a conference room,” Kelly Liang, Google’s director of business development for the Glass project, said in an interview. “Glass is all about being out there, having fun, being active.”
According to the law, however, behind the wheel may not be the best place. Abadie was ticketed for “Driving with monitor visible to driver (Google Glass),” according to what the CHP officer wrote. The applicable California law, V C 27602, was originally meant to keep to drivers from watching TV or similar monitors when on the road, though exceptions are made for GPS devices and other navigation tools. Google Glass does have programs for driving directions, though it also has other smartphone-type programs that could be considered distraction.
“Most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle,” Google notes in its own Glass FAQ, in which—long before this incident—users got a prescient glimpse of the murky legal reality. The document also encourages users to “Read up and follow the law!”
It is worth noting that Abadie was also ticketed for driving 80 mph in a 65 mph zone, but that she also claims the device was not on while she was behind the wheel that day. Also, only a few minutes into her Google Glass speech at TEDx Orange County, Abadie specifically mentions having bad driving habits.
“When I’m driving to my work, sometimes I– I do some things that are not quite right, and I don’t feel proud about them,” Abadie confesses in her talk, watchable below. “Well, in those moments I think, ‘What if, all this information—and someone could be watching me?’ Law-enforce—law-enforcement could be seeing me right now. That’s scary. That could become very expensive for me, honestly.”
Her public frankness and foresight are unlikely to help Abadie fight the speeding ticket, but the Google Glass citation is a fuzzier area. State laws continue to grapple with new technology. The destructive effects of texting and other cell-phone use while driving are well-known, with some studies indicating it is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Public awareness campaigns strive to tell drivers about the large numbers of deaths already caused by texting and other uses of the new technology.
Abadie’s Google+ friends were encouraging her to fight the ticket, believing her to be within her rights, and wanting her to set a precedent. Of course, if the device was off, it does beg the question of why she did not take it off during her drive.
In any case, the incident is likely to spark a larger conversation about the uses of Glass and similar devices while driving, as well as other ways the invention interacts with laws rushing to keep up. With another mystery barge like the one in San Francisco reported in harbor off Portland, Maine, and Google’s recent announcement that each “Explorer” would be permitted to invite three other users to sign up, it is clear the company preparing to expand the number of users. States—and the country as whole—are just now getting a glimpse of an unclear legal environment, confronting the reality of Google Glass and other wearable technology.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing