West Virginia politician Gary Howell just proposed a bill that would prohibit "using a wearable computer with head mounted display” while driving. Lawmakers have proposed this bill in anticipation of products like Google Glass and technology that promises to alter the face of technology once again. By anticipating the release of such products in the near future, lawmakers are jumping the gun and unintentionally helping fuel the hype behind Google Glass.
Rep. Howell told ZDNet that he believes the government has a duty to make sure citizens don't injure or kill someone because they’re reading a message while driving. The law proposed in West Virginia focuses to help discourage the younger population from texting while driving. According to Rep. Howell, “It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and under-skilled drivers.”
While the proposed bill has good intentions and is necessary, the ban on “wearable computers with head mounted display” is a little hasty. Products like Google Glass have just made an appearance in a couple of promotional videos on the web and many of the features of the product are still unknown.
A lot of new and recent technology has addressed the issue of texting and driving. For example, the iOS 6 update for iPhones included a new feature that allows you to send a text message to a caller stating you are driving if you decline the call (not to mention a great Siri update with better word recognition that allows you to send text messages hands free while driving). If Google has not invented a driving feature for Google Glass, this new bill should put the idea on their radar.
Also, it is unfair to single out “wearable computers with head mounted display.” Most cars coming into the market are now equipped with display modules used for navigation and making calls. Along the lines of Rep. Howell’s theory, most tech savvy and youth drivers are more likely to purchase cars with such features. Is it really necessary to make the distinction between “head mounted display” and display modules?
The legislative intent behind the bill is to protect civilians and help promote safe driving. While the efforts are commendable, it is actually helping build up hype for the new product. Just last month, a bar proposed a preemptive ban on Google Glass to protect the privacy of its customers. We cannot predict how the masses will use this product or how much of a change it will bring to our daily routines. Such headlines are only helping promote the product and getting more people interested in trying it out.
Lawmakers intend to make laws that can withstand the duration of time. Also, if the bill is too vague, it can lead to many interpretations of what the law set out to regulate. However, at the rate technology is growing, for lawmakers to keep up with the pace and direction would very difficult. Google Glass will definitely challenge many laws put into practice to promote safe driving, but banning the product before it even debuts is a little extreme, don’t you think?