The saga of the California driver ticketed for wearing a Google Glass device while behind the wheel has come to an end, with the court throwing out the controversial charge, but leaving open the door for police to issue Google Glass-related tickets in the future.
The driver had been ticketed in October 2013 for speeding and for violating a California law that prohibits the use of non-informational video screens (i.e., TVs, laptops, computers) within the driver’s line of sight.
However, the San Diego traffic court commissioner in the case ruled that police were wrong for issuing the ticket because they did not have sufficient evidence that the Google Glass device was actually turned on while the driver was operating her vehicle.
The driver has maintained from the start that her Google Glass device was not turned on at the time and no evidence was ever presented indicating that she was guilty of anything more than wearing the device.
The California Highway Patrol officer who issued the ticket says he cited the driver for Google Glass because he believed the bulky right side of the device blocked her peripheral vision.
But the court commissioner said that since the officer was merely speculating that the Glass blocked the driver’s vision after the officer admitted that he had never tried on a Google Glass to see whether or not it actually impedes one’s vision.
The commissioner did note that the use of Google Glass while driving could violate the law if the driver is operating a vehicle while also using his or her wearable computer.
“I believe it’s an initial success but we have a long way to go,” the defendant in the case said after Thursday’s hearing.
The ruling of a local traffic court will not set any sort of precedent in these matters, but this case has drawn a lot of attention because it’s the first legal test of wearable computers and their possible role in distracted driving charges.
There will undoubtedly be numerous legal issues that need to be sorted out as Google Glass and other wearable devices become more widely used.
For instance, while the California law cited in this case prohibits the use of front-seat screens for entertainment, it allows screens for GPS devices and rear-view cameras. What if a Google Glass user is using a GPS app on his eyewear while driving, or an automaker finds a way to integrate that rear-view camera into Google Glass?
Currently, a police officer can easily differentiate between a GPS mounted on a driver’s dash and an illegally placed laptop screen showing a movie, but how will authorities know for sure that the tiny illuminated rectangle on a driver’s Google Glass is showing legitimate driving-related information or if the driver is catching up on his Netflix?
Lawmakers in Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia have introduced legislation that, if passed, would ban driving while wearing Google Glass.