Recently, the San Diego police pulled a woman over to write her a ticket. It probably wouldn't have made the news, except for one of her infractions—driving while wearing Google Glass. That's right, we have the first ever traffic ticket written for living in the future.
That's according to Cecilia Abadie, who posted her story last night on Google Plus. Abadie, who's feed also has her wearing Google Glass while watching the news and working out, wrote, "a cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving [...] Is #GoogleGlass illegal while driving or is this cop wrong???"
The answer is unclear. After all, the law hasn't quite caught up with the technology yet.
According to California Vehicle Code Section 27602, "a person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a [...] video monitor [...] is operating and located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver's seat, or is operating [...] visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle." From that, it appears that Abadie's ticket was justified—or at least that Glass falls under that part of the code. (Depends on whether she was operating the Glass while driving, or just wearing them.)
There's a wrinkle, however. State law carves out an exemption for certain devices, like vehicle information displays or global positioning system units. This part of the law was written to allow drivers to use devices like those portable navigation devices that stick to the inside of the windshield. (There have been various efforts in the state legislature to close that loophole over the years, but none that gone very far.) But there's a wrinkle to the wrinkle. The exemption only applies to "equipment when installed in a vehicle"—not on the driver's face. So the exception may not apply to Glass—at least by the letter of the law. In either case, it is clear that current code was not written with Glass in mind.
Whether or not Google Glass is safe to operate while driving is another question. In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Daniel Simmons and Christopher Charbis, both of professors of psychology, argued that, "Perception requires both your eyes and your mind, and if your mind is engaged, you can fail to see something that would otherwise be utterly obvious [...] Google Glass may allow users to do amazing things, but it does not abolish the limits on the human ability to pay attention." Preliminary results from an ongoing study by another professor are expected soon.
Though the case is still developing, were Abadie to fight the ticket in traffic court, ("any lawyer or law firm should love to get this case," she wrote) it would appear to be the first test of the question. But to be fair, there may have been another reason Abadie was pulled over. According to the ticket, she was driving 80 miles per hour in a 65 zone.
UPDATE: We've just received the following from a Google spokesperson: "As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first. More broadly, Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it. It’s early days for Glass and we look forward to hearing feedback from Explorers and others in advance of a wider consumer launch next year."
Google also directed us to its online FAQ for Glass, which says: "As you probably know, most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites. Read up and follow the law! Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road. The same goes for bicycling: whether or not any laws limit your use of Glass, always be careful."