Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beware of geeks bearing gifts, Part τρία

I’ve written about the risks that Google Glass present to motorcyclists here, and recently on, here. I thought people would find that column pretty boring, but it picked up an above-average 400+ ‘likes’, so maybe I’m not the only guy worried about the road safety implications.

Google founder Sergei Brin recently got married. He posed for wedding photos while wearing Google glasses. Proof, if nothing else, that money can't buy taste.
Notwithstanding the fact that the first such distracted driving case was just thrown out of court in San Diego county, at least eight U.S. states are considering legislation that would make it illegal for glassholes to drive.

Now a Reuters report out of San Francisco (I noticed it on Canada’s Globe and Mail web site) tells us that Google’s actively lobbying at least three of those states—Illinois, Delaware, and Missouri—not to restrict distracted driving by glassholes.

The details of Google’s lobbying program are incredibly infuriating, and prove just how disingenuous the company is, as well as how willing they are to pro-actively increase the danger to all American road users.

Google’s making three arguments: The first is, they’re citing the San Diego case as evidence that the courts have already shown that they are disinclined to regulate Google Glass. 

That’s not true: The San Diego case was thrown out because one judge decided that he couldn’t determine whether or not the glasshole’s device was on or not. The defendant actually only claimed it was in ‘sleep’ mode, and an alert prosecutor might have changed the outcome of the case by pointing out that all it takes to wake the device up is a tilt of the user’s head. I.E., you could wake the device up while driving without even wanting to. Even if the device is off, I have an issue with drivers intentionally blocking that much peripheral vision. Right side shoulder checks? Not so much.

I think the whole, but-it-was-off argument is analogous to some Montana cowboy driving with a couple of beers in his system, and an open beer in his hand. OK, he’s not over 0.08% blood alcohol, but who really thinks that should be legal?

The second argument Google makes with its lobbying is, it’s too early to restrict use. Since there are only a few thousand devices in circulation, they can’t possibly constitute a threat worth regulating.

Those fuckers. So, we should wait until there are millions of them in use, and all those glassholes are writing enraged letters to their legislators? Maybe we should let the liquor industry, and especially heavy drinkers, rewrite our DUI laws, too.

Last but not least, Google’s coyly bleating that “[Google Glass] is not meant to distract but rather connect people more with the world around them.”

BULL FUCKING SHIT!  If drivers want to "connect" with the road and drivers around them, they’ll take the glasses off. Wearing the glasses connects them with distant and virtual parts of the world. That’s the DEFINITION of distraction. They'll connect alright; by physically smashing into pieces of the world, along with cars, motorcycles, bicycles and people.

According to Reuters, Google says that tech issues [read: attracting tech investment] are a big part of current policy discussions in the states. “We think it is important to be part of those discussions.”

Translation: Us and Apple have, basically, about half the money in the U.S. If you want us to invest in your state, keep your lawmakers away from our products.


  1. I could get behind a vehicular HUD if it worked while the user was still focused in the distance, or at least I could ignore it most of the time. We have a reflex that forces us to focus on close things first, and I can't override that. My windshield wipers must be on in the rain.

    Secondly it should only show me things that matter to a driver/rider: speed, a simplified nav., a shift light.

    I have no experience with Google glass, so I can't comment on if it could be made to work.

    These people have at least tried there systems with vehicles, or skiers, so hopefully at least one of them will work someday:

  2. If connecting people is so wrong, I don't want to be right. Says the guy on his wedding day wearing douchey glasses.


  3. A in vehicle HUD is certainly different than Google Glass. Augmented reality overlays, video, texting etc are not part of operating a vehicle. Considering how "hackable" most Google products are it can be setup to be safe for use with any kind of real comfort that it will stay that way.

  4. Like any other device that can be distracting, it is all up to the user, in this case the driver to pay attention to the road. The argument against google glasses could be made also against heads-up displays that project information to the windshield. One could say that the a**hole that is going to crash the car looking at google glasses is the same a**hole that 20 years ago crashed the car changing a cassette tape in his car radio. Or putting his super sized drink in a small cup holder, or putting make up on while staring at herself (or himself) in the rearview mirror. Damn, I've seen idiots reading the news paper while driving on the highway. Do you want those things to be made illegal too? The fact of the matter is that there are a million things that can be distracting while driving. Picking and choosing which ones are legal and which aren't doesn't solve the problem. A distracted driver is a danger to everyone else, regardless of what it is they are distracted with. You wanna wear glasses? You wanna read the paper? or change the radio station, fine. But pay attention to the road.

    You do all realize the combat pilots wear a similar device that feeds them more information while they are also operating their airplanes. I don't know, just saying.

    1. 1.) Changing a cassette tape? Poor analogy; the user decided when to flip the tape, and typically didn't pick a moment when he was negotiating a difficult merge. This is a new era. People will unexpectedly get pinged because a FB message has arrived.

      2.) Your argument could be applied to DWI, as well. Why not just penalize bad driving, rather than criminalize one particular cause of bad driving?

      3.) Average drivers aren't combat pilots. Anyway, in modern air combat, there's little to see out the window.

      Google hopes to sell millions of glasses, and "envisions" a world in which people use them at all waking hours. Ironically, Google's also a leader in autonomous vehicle research. If everyone had self-driving cars, I wouldn't worry about new, exponentially worse distractions. But, the glasses are far closer to being commercialized.

      The result, and Google knows it, is that many people will be killed by drivers who are distracted by this product. Google's actively lobbying against distracted-driving laws relating to the product. True story: there are a number of proven devices that can disable car ignitions, if drivers have elevated blood alcohol levels. Several states mandate such devices after a first DWI offense, under specific conditions. You know who lobbies against such laws? The liquor industry. Yep, they're *still* fighting a rearguard action against drink-driving regulation.