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Google Fighting Distracted Driver Laws 226

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-of-it-as-driving-on-hard-mode dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters reports Google has initiated lobbying efforts to stymie attempts by some states to enact distracted driver laws aimed at wearable technologies, such as Google Glass. 'Google's main point to legislators is that regulation would be premature because Google Glass is not yet widely available, the state elected officials say. Illinois state Senator Ira Silverstein, a Chicago Democrat who introduced a Google Glass restriction bill in December, responded that it was clear the merchandise was heading for the broader public.' Given the toll on our highways shown to arise from distracted drivers, is this responsible corporate behavior to protect their product, or an unethical endangering of lives?"
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Google Fighting Distracted Driver Laws

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:20PM (#46337517)
    However general legislation against using digital devices can be done right. The issue we start to run into is things like do touch screens built into the dashboard count or windscreen HUDs like what BMW has in the works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lisias (447563)

      No. Bill specifically about Google Glass is an "excellent" idea.

      Make a bill general enough, and the Makers will join forces to fight it.

      Make a bill to every single one, one by one, and you will have to handle just one each time: you will have more profit opportunities this way,

      (you don'y think they're *really" concerned about safety, do you? They want the money)

      • but bills targeting (or benefiting) specific people/companies/tech/etc. are generally considered illegal no?

        The issue here, as always, is training people to use new technology properly. We simply don't. We expect everyone to implicitly know when they shouldn't do something. As evidenced by the texting and driving, people aren't making proper choices. It is perfectly reasonable to text while stopped at a light, not so much while moving. (and yes arguments can be made about any situation).

        Since t
        • by lgw (121541)

          but bills targeting (or benefiting) specific people/companies/tech/etc. are generally considered illegal no?

          We have constitutional protection (pause for laughter) against Bills of Attainder - you can't write a law that targets a specific person or group for fines or other punishment. Justice in individual cases belongs in the judicial branch, not the legislative branch.

          Of course, when the Congress passes a law specifically to take back 90% of bonuses paid to banking executives receiving bailouts during the crisis, no one objected, because we seem to care more about the emotion of the moment than slow-but-constan

          • by gnick (1211984)

            That makes a bill ever so much more complicated. For example, I find myself looking away from the road fairly often to check my speedometer. Sometimes my fuel gauge at the same time. I don't feel particularly dangerous looking at the built-in GPS in cars that have them even if I'm in an area I'm not familiar with (in fact, especially in an area I'm unfamiliar with.) My car doesn't have one, so I occasionally pick up my mobile unit or phone to glance at the map (I program it ahead of time.) It seems tha

            • If you're not breaking existing laws, why create others to make sure you're less likely to? If you are breaking laws, well - There are already laws in place to enforce that.

              Existing laws against reckless driving are full of vague generalities... What exactly constitutes driving with "due care and attention"? As your burrito example indicates, there's a continuum, and reasonable people can reasonably disagree on what's legal and illegal under such statures. Those sort of laws are best reserved for the extreme cases that legislators never could have imagined [wikipedia.org] up front (If that story had been real and if the guy had lived to see a courtroom). New, more targeted laws can set cons

        • by Toshito (452851)

          It is perfectly reasonable to text while stopped at a light, not so much while moving.

          No, when you're stopped at a light, you should look around yourself and be aware of the situation BEFORE the light turn green.

          If you just press the go pedal a split second after the green, you're throwing yourself into the unknown (are there pedestrian runnning the red? is there an ambulance comming your way? Is there a car coming fast that you know will run the red light? That kid playing with a ball, will he run to catch it if it goes in the street?)

          When you drive a car, you should drive your car and noth

          • by Intron (870560)

            It is perfectly reasonable to text while stopped at a light, not so much while moving.

            No, when you're stopped at a light, you should look around yourself and be aware of the situation BEFORE the light turn green.

            If you just press the go pedal a split second after the green, you're throwing yourself into the unknown (are there pedestrian runnning the red? is there an ambulance comming your way? Is there a car coming fast that you know will run the red light? That kid playing with a ball, will he run to catch it if it goes in the street?)

            When you drive a car, you should drive your car and nothing else!

            It takes me 10 minutes longer every day to get to work because of you idiots who are texting and don't know the light is green until everyone behind you is honking.

        • by greenbird (859670)

          The issue here, as always, is training people to use new technology properly.

          No it's not. That's just idiotic. The issue is the driving not any technology. How about training the idiots to drive instead?. Force people to treat driving like the exceedingly dangerous activity it is and any problems with distracted driving goes away. It's completely asinine to try to legislate control of each and every activity a person can partake in while driving and even stupider to think that you can effectively enforce such laws.

          I will never understand what it is about getting in the driver's seat

      • Ok, so we make a bill about Google Glass. And then another one about an Apple wearable computing product. And then another one about the one Samsung releases. And then one about the one Microsoft releases. And then the new Google product that is similar to but not exactly like Google Glass. And then one about.....

        Before long, the laws regarding said devices will be a horrible mess. There might be instances where using Product A is legal but using the very similar Product B is illegal. People won't kn

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not so sure I agree. I have not used Google Glass and I have not read a whole lot about it, but isn't it visually contextual, as in it can recognize certain things as it comes into the field of view? Automatically? Can Glass be modified to recognize when it's in a vehicle and somehow be designed to enhance the driving experience and safety?

      To me, what BMW is doing and what Google is doing calls for safety standards, not safety regulations. A better bill in my opinion would be something that empowers

    • Imagine if it was smart enough to work with you while driving. Highlight things coming out, or the road you're supposed to turn on when using GPS, keep a feeder of speed limits, and hold a clip of video for use in analyzing fault during accidents. Indicators around pedestrians, red lights, traffic control signs. Basically things to make you more aware of the road, instead of distract you from it. And the coup de grace: if you're in the driver's seat it blocks out the screen of your phone or tablet.
    • by bigpat (158134)

      "against using digital devices"... so analog devices are okay then?

      I know what you are saying, but you are having the same problem as legislators will in coming up with good language for something like this. The evidence is pretty compelling that people are more distracted by other people in the car than by people they are talking to on the phone. But we accept one risk as natural while people don't accept the other risk as being natural.

      I think it is clear that it isn't risk that is being compared but

      • by dryeo (100693) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:32PM (#46339691)

        All the evidence I've seen is that having a conversation with an occupant in the vehicle is much safer then using a cell phone. This is mostly due to the occupant having situational awareness so when some tricky piece of driving shows up, they shut up or at least know why you're ignoring them. On top of this is that an occupant can also point out dangerous situations such as yesterday when my wife screamed stop as someone was in my blind spot and going for the same parking spot I was.
        I hate talking on the cell when in traffic as the other end has no idea of what is happening and can get uptight just by the conversation being interrupted by having to shift gears.
        The dash display can be ignored whereas a heads up display can be more in your face. How often do you need to look at your dash?

    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @03:11PM (#46338157)

      Entire text of a correctly done bill here: "The use of portable electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle is prohibited".

      That would ban cell phones, texting devices, google glass, and similar - but not prohibit anything built in to the car.

      • by anagama (611277)

        That's kind of myopic.

        Imagine glasses that discretely display your speed to the side of your field of view -- instead of looking down to check your speed, you don't have to take your eyes off the road. Other data about the road ahead could be displayed too. More awesome, the device could black out the intense points of oncoming headlights. I would love that, rather than having to look off to the side of the road (which is fine for staying in the lane, but not for seeing hazards ahead), I could continue t

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Your eyes are SUPPOSED to be taken off the road briefly and frequently. It is amazing the number of people who don't understand this simple rule. You are not supposed to sit there like a zombie looking at the same thing all the time.

          • by anagama (611277)

            What state do you live in? I want to make certain never to drive there.

            https://duckduckgo.com/?q=shou... [duckduckgo.com]

            Seriously, you have some evidence for that statement?

            • So, you don't look at your speed, or your sideview mirrors, or to the side/rear when changing lanes?
            • by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:27PM (#46339089)

              I see you know nothing about defensive driving. I'll make it easy for you: a driver is supposed to be AWARE of what is happening around him at all times. That means what is happening immediately in front of you, what is happening way down the road, what is happening to your rear, what is happening to your sides, what is happening with your vehicle. To do that, your eyes should be in motion at almost all times. What you should NEVER do is focus your gaze on any one spot, whether that spot is your phone, the rear of the car in front of you, a supposed 'heads up display', or anywhere else.

              • by SumDog (466607)

                Google Glass is not a heads up display. But a real heads up display is actually really helpful. It's focused at infinity so your speed seems to be part of the world in front of you. Yes, you shouldn't focus on it; but it does allow you to keep your eyes up and looking around, not going back down to the speedo to make sure you're not more than 10 over the limit.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        "The use of portable electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle is prohibited". That would ban cell phones, texting devices, google glass, and similar - but not prohibit anything built in to the car.

        So what, exactly, is the significant difference between using a cell phone taped to the dash with a BT headphone and a cell phone built into the dash of the car? One's portable and illegal, one's not, under your perfect law.

        How about my GPS? What is the significant difference between a GPS that is in a suction-cup window mount and one built into a fancy display on the dash? Other than having to pay the auto maker an exorbitant amount for the built-in one and having to buy it built into each car instead of

        • Simple laws are usually the worst. Many times they are written by ideologs who care little for the practical considerations of what they want to keep other people from doing.

          So, overly complex laws that are thousands of pages long, that legislators vote on, knowing full well that none of them have read and comprehend the entire document are better? Here's a simpler law that would cover the condition above, and probably be simpler... "No driver shall allow themselves to be so distracted while in control of a vehicle as to endanger others." ... Of course that would mean allowing police, and judges to simply do their jobs (with sufficient evidence, as dash cams, and even persona

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            So, overly complex laws that are thousands of pages long, that legislators vote on, knowing full well that none of them have read and comprehend the entire document are better?

            False dichotomy. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.

      • by swv3752 (187722)

        What about GPS? What about my phone's GPS? What is fundamentally different about reading a printed map and using Google maps? Why should one be allowed and the other prohibited?

        • by dryeo (100693)

          You do know that (in most places) reading a map while driving is illegal? Why should an exception be made for GPS?

      • A car is an portable electronic device. It may be powered by gas but that turns a generator which provides electricity. Many of the car components are electronic. Most cars are powered by a computer.

        Also a speed limit sign is a bigger distraction than google glass ever could be and it requires you to take your eyes off the road to check to ensure that you are going the proper speed limit under penalty of law. Checking my speed got me in one accident when a driver in front came to a sudden stop far from a t

      • by SumDog (466607)

        So in Australia, talking on your phone in a car is baned, not just texted. Although you can talk on your phone if you have a handsfree (bluetooth ear piece or built-in to the car; you can only look at your phone to answer it).

        I avoid the issue entierly because I sold my car two years ago.

    • by icebike (68054)

      However general legislation against using digital devices can be done right. The issue we start to run into is things like do touch screens built into the dashboard count or windscreen HUDs like what BMW has in the works.

      I have a touch screen built into my dashboard, and I consider it amazingly distracting and dangerous. Luckily I can voice command my car to do pretty much what ever I can do on the touch screen. I really don't like doing anything on the touch screen while driving. I'm not aware of any statistics on the danger of in-dash touch screens, but I just know manipulating it distracts me personally.

      However I also hate that it locks out entering of addresses for the Nav function while you are moving and both front

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Distracted/bad driving is already illegal. The point of these laws is to make it easier for lazy police to enforce the law. Like DUI, where you are breaking the law having an empty can of been on the floorboard of your back seat when you are sober, they make more regulations to make every possible distraction explicitly listed, as it's too hard to make the general laws stick in court.

      The laws aren't about safety anymore. We'd be better off abolidhing all traffic laws and treating crashes as criminal act
    • And ... can Google Glass be used as a HUD? That is, when driving it shows you pertinent information to your driving. If your "digital devices" law bans GPSs then it may be counterproductive.

      As long as a company - in this case Google, but any company - can show how their product assists the driver rather than distracting the driver, there really shouldn't be an issue. There will of course be states that want to ban HUDs, but the public will straighten them out over time. So go ahead, Google, convince us that
  • equal treatment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by duckintheface (710137)

    There are plenty of questions about privacy and security raised by Google Glass but I think all products should be treated equally. I might be more distracted while driving by a Big Mac or a cigarette than by an image out of my field of view on Glass. This is too subjective a judgement to be made by politicians through the legislative process.

    • Apply this to other areas as well. A few weeks ago a friend called me up at midnight because his car had broken down in the boonies. I was awoken out of a sound slumber and was amazed at how dulled my reflexes and decision making capabilities were. For all intents and purposes I was in a drunken state of mind while at the same time being stone sober. Personally, I'd rather be on the road with somebody with a light buzz than with a parent in a car yelling at her kids and otherwise distracted.
      • Exactly! A whining 5 year old in the back seat is more distracting than an image on Glass. You can't test every possible behavior before it is allowed in a car. The law should be that every driver is RESPONSIBLE for paying attention to the road. If I am being distracted by Glass, I have a duty to turn it off.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Every driver is not going to do that. This is evident by how many people are texting while driving. Yeah every driver should be responsible. That would be great. Then every driver would drive the limit, not tail gate, signal lane changes, not text while driving, not drink while driving. What a beautiful nirvana that would be!

          But that is not reality. So we legislate laws because we have already lost way to much as a society to do otherwise.

        • However, while it's perfectly fine to remove your Google Glass while driving, leaving your screaming kid at a gas station or duct taping their mouth shut is somewhat frowned upon. The safety of Google Glass while driving is unknown at this point. And, as other commenters have pointed out, it's better to legislate distracted driving in the abstract than to try and define every instance that could cause impairment.

    • Most of the laws don't outline by product name. Their existence being prompted by Google Glass doesn't mean the text of the law includes the name "Google" anywhere. I mean, that'd be a bill of attainder, among other problems.

      • by dryeo (100693)

        That wouldn't be a bill of attainder, that would just be a very targeted bill. A bill of attainder would be a law that says i kan read is guilty of using Google Glass and sentenced to...
        A lawful conviction requires court while a bill of attainder just states that you are guilty and here's the sentence with no judicial oversight.

    • There are plenty of questions about privacy and security raised by Google Glass but I think all products should be treated equally.

      RTFAS:

      "aimed at wearable technologies, such as Google Glass."

      Nobody's trying to specifically legislate Google Glass. They're trying to modify existing distracted-driving laws to include wearable devices.

      Also, whether a Big Mac is more distracting is irrelevant to whether wearable devices are. If they are, they should not be allowed. That said, many people DO want an overhaul of

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ... I might be more distracted while driving by a Big Mac or a cigarette than by an image out of my field of view on Glass. ...

      Sounds to me like you are easily distracted if seeing a Big Mac or cigarette while driving distracts you.

  • by Entropius (188861) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:24PM (#46337581)

    ... then we need to do it rigorously.

    Figure out the threshhold above which elevated risk becomes criminal (i.e. "it is illegal to drive in such a manner that you have more than X% chance of hitting someone else per mile/per minute"). This is a policy matter -- maybe it's okay to have up to double the normal risk of collision, but no more?

    Then test the hell out of everything. Levels of drunkenness, of stonedness, of distraction (from "putting on makeup" to "in car with pretty girl/guy"). Being old. Being young. Being male/female/black/white/purple. Driving past flashy billboards. Driving through speed traps (speed traps cause wrecks, ban the things). Driving while tired ("nope, sorry, after your 14 hour day you can't drive; you're impaired, take a nap first").

    That's really the only way to be fair with this sort of thing.

    Or we could just treat people as responsible, and not worry with forms of impairment that people assume voluntarily and can do away with if they need to. Talking on the phone while driving is fine, so long as you're willing to say "In traffic now, have to go for safety."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or we could just treat people as responsible, and not worry with forms of impairment that people assume voluntarily and can do away with if they need to. Talking on the phone while driving is fine, so long as you're willing to say "In traffic now, have to go for safety."

      Yes, because that clearly has worked so far.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:46PM (#46337879)

        Yes, because that clearly has worked so far.

        Since accident rates have been declining for decades, yeah, it looks like it has worked so far.

        For all the blather about "distracted driving" due to these neat new tech-toys, we're having fewer accidents and fewer fatalities. So it's really hard to see how these new forms of "distracted driving" are causing a problem

        • We have had fewer fatalities due to safer cars etc. I'm quite dubious about your "fewer accidents" idea though.

        • So it's really hard to see how these new forms of "distracted driving" are causing a problem

          That's because any self assessment of driving performance is notoriously over-optimistic. I thought exactly the same thing about mobile phones until one day (in the early 90's) when I was driving and talking on a mobile I suddenly noticed that as I was thinking about the conversation my eyes has been upturned in a subconscious effort to block out distractions from the phone conversation! I realised I had "dropped the ball" and had not been looking at the road for several seconds. At the time I had already b

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Yup. In which case, if you ban Glass, you must also completely ban all windshield-mounted GPS units.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

        • by Entropius (188861)

          Yes. Lost drivers are dangerous drivers, as are drivers that swerve around because they are about to miss their exit.

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            Strange, it has been my experience that the ones swerving to make an exit are almost always the ones with a GPS mounted on the dash. Why? Well, my guess is that these idiots are so busy looking at their GPS that they don't even notice things like road signs that tell them the exit is approaching.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            And having part of your windshield blocked is safe?

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      All of the above are perfectly safe if done at a speed that is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances including your level of attentiveness. Given a slow enough speed, even watching a movie while driving is safe as long as you periodically check the road.

      In fact, there's already a law against driving faster than what is reasonable and prudent, despite what the speed limit sign says. It's called the "Basic Speed Law," and it's used mainly in times of fog or icy streets. Why can't it also be used agai

  • Woosh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sosume (680416) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:28PM (#46337635) Journal

    Given the toll on our highways shown to arise from distracted drivers, is this responsible corporate behavior to protect their product, or an unethical endangering of lives?

    I'm glad the this is a neutrally worded question. I've got a similar one. Given the massive breach of our childrens online privacy, do you think underages should be free to visit whatever smut they want on the internet, or is it better to have the ISP install filters for all our safety?

    • by DeathElk (883654)

      Arguably, the increasing incidence of pedestrians and cyclists being injured or killed by distracted drivers [sciencedaily.com] requires a legislative effort to minimise the harm, as people cannot be trusted to act responsibly. Some people would argue the same for online pornography, given the failure of many parents to educate and monitor their children's Internet usage.

      I believe the immediate danger to all road users associated with distracted driving far outweighs the largely moral issue of online pornography.

  • by vanyel (28049) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:30PM (#46337655) Journal

    Could Google glass be used in a HUD capacity to actually improve driving safety?

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Yes. Maps on Glass is already far less distracting than a windshield-mounted GPS for example, and there are also speedometer/OBD apps for Glass people are working on.

    • I find it interesting that HUDs and other augmented reality devices are being implemented for soldiers on the battlefield, aircraft, cars, etc. but somehow when that augmented reality display combines wearable and car it becomes as dangerous as a dumb*** taking his eyes of the road to text on his mobile. I would assert that given the same kinds technology are being implemented with goals of improving outcomes on the battlefield, provide safer air travel, remove the need take your eyes of the road to look d
  • AdBlock Highway (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Extremus (1043274) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:31PM (#46337663)

    Google Glass could block distracting billboards.

  • by Monty845 (739787) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @02:34PM (#46337701)
    Legislatures should wait to see how things develop, and not ban a product before it causes problems, based on the presumption that it will. Consider the possibility that you could build in driver aids to the Google glass that could actually make driving easier/safer. You could augment human senses with car sensors to identify potential hazards sooner then the average person would see them, or even something as simple as making your navigation info easier to see without looking away from the road at all. Second, to the extent that using them is banned, it should require more then just having one attached to your glasses, it should require that you were actually using it. Its simple with a cell phone, there is no reason you would have it in your hand other then to use it, but with Google glass, you could turn it off while driving and just keep using the same glasses. Ultimately it all comes down to legislators seeing an opportunity to get some free press for passing a law that wont piss off too many constituents, regardless of whether a law about it is really necessary. The basis for a law shouldn't just be can it reduce harm, but can it reduce harm substantially enough to justify an intrusion on our freedom to do it. I don't think banning Google glass while driving justifies that intrusion at this point.
  • People get into accidents all the time because they were messing with their radio when they should have had their eyes on the road. So why don't we ban car radios?

    And if that seems absurd, why are we talking about banning things like texting, cell phone use, or Google Glass while driving?

    • The last accident I got into was because I was distracted by a Driver's Ed car on my street. I was keeping tabs on what they were doing so much (so as not to hit them), that I hit another car while pulling out of my driveway. Meanwhile, the other driver was keeping tabs on said driver's ed car so much (trying to drive around him) that he didn't see me pulling out of my driveway. I'd love to ban those Driver's Ed cars driving down residential streets for practice.

  • Google's main point to legislators is that regulation would be premature because Google Glass is not yet widely available

    It seems like that's the perfect reason to nip the issue in the bud. If you wait to include Glass and such in distracted driving laws, you may increase cultural resistance to the law since people will have started to expect that driving with their wearable display device should be no problem.

  • What will happen when a driver is bored enough? That may be even worse than chatting on the phone because a bored driver may fall asleep from boredom.

  • I think people have lost the entire concept of a rich vocabulary. "restrict" does not equal "ban". I'm restricted from driving without corrective eye lenses -- glasses or contacts. I'm not banned from driving.

    Whether or not a device (google glass, texting, voice calls, non-hands-free calls, et cetera) is "safe" is completely and totally irrelevant. Yet another arbitrary definition of safe, another arbitrary experiment to figure it out, and now an arbitrary time to make the decision. It's all typical la

  • Do you need to know how fast you're going? Yes.

    Do you need to know how your car is performing? Yes.

    Do you need to know where you are and where you're going? Yes.

    We already have head-up displays that show car parameters, as well as navigation systems that help you get where you're going. This could be incorporated in to an HUD ("turn here ->").

    Anything more would be information overload. I do not need ads to tell me how cool the store I'm driving by is (i.e. how much they paid for the ad), nor do

  • The title suggests that Google is fighting against distracted driving laws, but when you read TFA, it sounds like they are really fighting laws that ban Glass-like devices which, depending on your point of view, might not be the same thing.

    When I'm using my phone to navigate in the car, I have to glance at the phone occasionally. If I had Glass active and it was showing some of the same things, I wouldn't need to look away from the road and (in theory) could be less distracted. IMHO, I would think a blanket

  • Why can't we just do a blanket ban on *anything* that is causing you to drive distracted? I don't care if it's kids screaming in the back, your mom just died, thinking about that hot chick you just banged, whatever - if you're distracted you shouldn't be driving. Conversely, if I'm talking on my phone but driving perfectly, (safe distance, speed, staying in the lane, heeding traffic, etc...) that should be fine. Why must we ban every. single. damn. stupid. tiny. thing. that. ever. gets. invented?

  • Great idea! Especially considering they charge you double if you want to pay in cash. Illinois Toll Rates by Plaza [illinoistollway.com].

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