The first scientific study conducted to compare the use of Google Glass with a regular smart-phone while driving has shown that texting with the new wearable technology is just as dangerous as the use of a regular phone. A study conducted at the University of Central Florida (UCF) recorded the reaction times of 40 drivers in a simulator, with the participants required to act on a mock traffic-incident while texting on either an Android smart-phone or Google Glass.
The simulation required drivers to send and receive text messages while behind the wheel and then interrupted them with the vehicle ahead suddenly slamming on its brakes. The results of the study have shown that drivers using both the wearable technology and the smart-phone suffered the same increased reaction time, proof that voice activated texting with Google Glass is just as dangerous while driving as the use of a regular phone.
The only noteworthy difference between the two is that users of the wearable technology were able to recover from the simulated event after it had occurred much faster than those using the smart-phone. However, before and during the traffic incident they still displayed decreased awareness and showed much slower reaction times to the incident itself than those without any communication device at all.
Approximately 1.6 million road accidents occur every year as a direct result of drivers texting or using their mobile phones. As Google Glass and competing technologies such as Sony SmartEyeglass gain increased media attention, several U.S. states are already discussing the ban of these items while out on the road. Texting while driving, which doubles the risk of a crash or near-miss according to studies from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, is currently banned in 44 states.
Wearable devices such as Glass and SmartEyeglass are rapidly gaining attention as their designers attempt to push them to the front of the world’s technology stage. When Google Glass went on sale for a single day last April it very quickly sold out, suggesting that the public is ready to embrace the concept of wearable technology.
This new concept is designed to provide people with context-aware information exactly when they need it, therefore leaving them free to interact with the real world. But the UCF study has shown that Google still has a long way to go. While Google Glass fans may claim that information is delivered without distraction because the driver’s eyes are free to remain on the road, the study has also proved that communicating via text, regardless of the device in use, remains a crucial distraction while behind the wheel.
The company has so far declined to comment on the results of the study which shows that texting with Google Glass is just as dangerous when driving as the use of a regular phone. But one researcher from UCF has expressed his hope that the few advantages already displayed by Glass are a positive sign that more useful technological advances are still to come. As the science and knowledge continues to improve, wearable technology may yet help to combat the increasing number of distractions drivers face every day on the road.
By Mathew Channer