Ask LH: Is It Legal To Drive While Wearing Google Glass?

Ask LH: Is It Legal To Drive While Wearing Google Glass?

Dear Lifehacker, Having recently seen our Prime Minister showing off/looking confused with Google Glass glasses, I was wondering whether it would be illegal to use them while driving? Logic dictates that yes it would be, but our laws are rarely logical. Is this something that is already covered, or something they’ll need to specifically add in? Thanks, Cameron

Dear Cameron,

For those out of the loop, Google Glass is essentially a wearable smartphone, or computer in the form of a sleek pair of glasses frames with a small transparent lens positioned over the right eye. The gizmo can be used to record point-of-view HD video and also displays contextual information in real time. (Take a look at Google’s concept video for a demonstration of how it works.)

As far as we know, there are currently no laws that prohibit the use of augmented-reality eye-wear in Australia. However, with the onscreen information at least partially obscuring your vision, it wouldn’t surprise us if new laws came into effect once the technology becomes readily available — especially if it takes off in a big way, like mobile phones.

In the case of Google Glass, the current prototype requires you to swipe your finger across the earpiece to navigate the menu, which doesn’t sound particularly safe while driving. VicRoads probably puts it best: “Driving is complex and challenging. A simple way to make driving safer is to reduce the number of non-driving and distracting activities you undertake while driving.” In other words, it really comes down to common sense.

Bear in mind that it is currently illegal to touch or manipulate your mobile phone when behind the wheel (the only exceptions are hands-free devices and phones that are secured in a commercially-manufactured cradle). Somehow, we doubt having the equivalent of a smartphone strapped to your face is going to get a green light from lawmakers. On the plus side, the contextual information feed may provide a quick getaway route from the cops.


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  • This should come under the same laws as Mobile phones. Should not be able to be worn while driving to avoid use. Flat out simple. The only way to ensure they’re not used.

      • Indeed, that is a good question, hence why this will be a major issue. I just say make it a crime, a severely punishable one, and if people get caught, its an instant fine/sentence with no defence. You cannot possibly defend doing this.

    • You mean like dash-cams or CCTV Cameras on public transport, company vehicles, private vehicles, or the shopping centres, or city buildings, or shopping centres, or movie theatres, or public streets…

      Simple fact quite the opposite, there are very very few places you can expect not to be recorded, essentially these are only places you can reasonably expect no one else to be present without your express consent.

      Put another way, it is enshrined in Australian law that your image can be recorded, by anyone, at any time, you are in a “Public” place. You may ask them to stop, but if the photographer is on public property, there is no requirement for them to do so.

      • Indeed, I see what you mean. Going into a public place is one thing, but with Google Glasses, people can intrude into private places and record easier without your knowledge, it will be quite the privacy breaker indeed.

        • I’ve got a camera that does 720p recording on my keyring and it looks like a garage door opener.

          Google glass will actually be more noticeable than what’s already available.

    • I’m guessing you don’t realise that there is no expectation of privacy whatsoever for anyone within a public place (or visible from a public place) within Australia when it comes to still images or motion video unless they are recording Audio which falls under the separate Listening Devices Acts in each State (though even then the concept of if it is being recorded for lawful purposes is ambiguous).

      This means unless being used for prurient interest’s (upskirt photography is prime example) the recording of you, Joe Blow, Julia Gillard, some celeb wannabee, or any other person who thinks being filmed makes them have a ‘butthurt experience’ whilst in public view is in for a rude shock since it is quite LEGAL and LAWFULL to do!

  • unfortunately there will no doubt be a law to ban these while driving based on the same principal as mobiles, but in a perfect world it would all come down to how obtrusive and distracting they are, im not sure what sort of “images” the glass show you but i imagine its more akin to the status bar of a phone then it is the full wonder of a smartphone screen, so some simple msg counts etc nothing obtrusive or dangerous in anyway

    this issue gets real interesting that when you factor in that these glasses arent just fashion accessories, google have already mentioned plans to make these compatible with prescription lenses so for some people these will be there permeant vision aids,

  • If my knowledge of Google Glass is correct, you don’t actually see anything unless you look upwards. This means that you’re not going to have your FOV blocked by an incoming call from your boss. I would imagine that the part of your vision being blocked by GG will be the somewhat similar as glancing at a GPS in a cradle. Who knows? This could also be safer than having a device in a cradle?

    • I agree – it behoves Google and whoever makes competing products to make them safe for use while driving.

      There may be heuristics they can use that automatically switch to “Driving” mode, and turn it into driving/navigation HUD – this has the potential improve safety considerably.

      There’s several good reasons military pilots have had HUD systems for a long time now. – but it boils down to the fact if used properly they increase situational awareness and safety/survivability for the crews. – that’s the key, they must be used properly.

      I don’t advocate locking the systems down so tight they can’t be used in some situations, however making them automatically behave in a safe manner, and making safe use easier than unsafe use, the vast majority of people will let themselves be safe. – You’ll always get the odd idiot – but they’ll still be far less of a problem than the idiots that currently refuse to drive safely. (If you can solve the mentality of these idiots, you’ll solve any potential Google Glass problems too.)

    • Yes they could point arrows at potential hazards that you may have missed as you put 99% of you concentration into not going 2 k’s over the limit. They could alert you that you’re about to hit a kid on a bike. But more importantly, once rooted and custom ROM’d, they could alert you to hot chicks that you may have missed on the side of the road or at the bus-stop.

  • I really want one, even if i look like a complete tool! That being said…

    It is illegal in Victoria for several reasons as per the Road Safety Rules 2009:

    Section 300 states that a driver must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary unless the phone is installed in a commercially manufactured holder and affixed to the vehicle. It also states that it can only be used if the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press any thing on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone. As Google Glass is a phone it effectively makes it illegal. Remember that this applies to GPS units as well currently.

    It could also come under the following if you need further convincing –
    Section 299 states a driver must not drive a motor vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operating while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, if any part of the image on the screen- (a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position.

    And if you really wanted to stretch it you could possibly have the following –
    Section 297 part 2) states the following a driver must not drive a motor vehicle unless the driver has a clear view of the road, and traffic, ahead, behind and to each side of the driver.

    Just my personal opinion – people are bad enough drivers already without further distractions like that, it would be stupid to use such a thing while driving.

    • It is not effectively Mobile Phone :(n) cellular telephone, cellular phone, cellphone, cell, mobile phone (a hand-held mobile radiotelephone for use in an area divided into small sections, each with its own short-range transmitter/receiver), Section 300 is void. maybe section 299 is valid, however this would mean you cannot have your modern (last 10-15 years) radio as a visual display unit is “a device with a screen that displays characters or graphics representing data in a computer memory.” nor your GPS, LCD clock, Dashboard, essentially if you want to enforce 299 all cars must be from the 60’s as almost every car has some kind of LCD display weather it be a clock, odometer etc. 297 part 2 would negate sun glasses or even normal glasses and only contacts would be exempt as there is no frame to ‘obscure vision’.

      Whilst I don’t advocate the use of them unless they function as some kind of HUD giving you information to help you drive safer (eg line marking, speed limits, gps directions) I do take issue to ambiguity used in these types of laws.

      • You are arguing in semantics. Unless I am mistaken about the capabilities of Google Glass, as far as the law is concerned if it is capable of making, receiving phone calls text messages and has the functions of a mobile phone it is a mobile phone. This has been proven and tested with case law in numerous instances in Victoria.

        I selected the parts of the act that were relevant without posting the full sections as they are huge. There are exemptions in the act, but I am telling you that driving with one is both idiotic and illegal. You are also interpreting 297 incorrectly and assuming Google Glass are like contacts or glasses. Which they are not, they give a heads up display that could be considered to obscure vision and distract the driver.

        You make take issue with the ambiguity, but they exist because people do stupid things and cause road accidents. Driving is a fairly straight forward thing, yet there are a lot of collisions everyday for a whole host of reasons. Driver distraction is a main one. If you need a HUD to tell you where the lanes or what the speed limit is to be driving. You shouldn’t be driving.

        • “If you need a HUD to tell you where the lanes or what the speed limit is to be driving. You shouldn’t be driving.” that’s a fairly arrogant statement, why would companies such as BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, even GM Holden and the like put features in their vehicles such as lane assist, HUD, Collision avoidance systems, and speed alerts if they weren’t beneficial to or enhancing vehicular safety?

        • Technically, the Google Glass cannot make and receive phone calls. It can however, be paired with a mobile phone and act as a Bluetooth receiver in which to answer and make phone calls. Which can be done without touching the device (with the exception that it is on your face).

          This makes it safer than in-car Bluetooth kits that require you to push a button to answer or end calls.

          Also, I just looked at when this article was published, and nobody is going to see this comment I suspect.

  • The only way these things will be successful is if they look like a normal pair of glasses.

    Otherwise they will be used about as much as those Bluetooth ear pieces.

    Don’t get me wrong I love this stuff. Give me a pair of these, an iWatch and I’ll happily walk down the street looking like a tool!

    But if they don’t go mainstream they will fail… And I predict that is what will happen.

  • I think people are forgetting that its not illegal to use predefined features of a mobile phone while driving. Its only illegal to physically touch it whilst driving.

    The same would apply to I would imagine.

  • For as long as it is legal to light cigarettes and smoke in cars, I cannot see why it would be illegal to use Google Glass. Still baffles me how newer technology is illegal, yet you can have lit cigarettes in a car, which will cause an accident if dropped.

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