Can Google Glass make you a safer driver?

Can Google Glass make you a safer driver?

Summary: If Google Glass can help keep you from looking at your phone while driving, is that good? Or should you just learn a little bit of self-control while piloting a two-ton vehicle?

TOPICS: Google, Health

I so very much wish we weren't having this discussion. If I could make one wish, it would be that people would stop playing with their little devices long enough to drive from one place to another. Just stop it! Stop your texting. Stop your talking. Just keep your eyes on the road.

I spend a lot of time in my car, and one of the most disturbing things is to be on the highway next to someone who is clearly not looking at the road. The other day, I was a passenger in my husband's car while we were stopped at a light. I was watching this woman in a little blue car right next to me. She was texting by typing on her iPhone while it was in her purse next to her on her passenger seat. But what really got me was that when the light turned green, she started driving forward while still staring into the phone in her purse. She hit the gas without looking out her front window!

Let me be blunt: texting while driving is not safe. I can prove it. The National Safety Council "estimates that at least 1.6 million crashes each year involve drivers using cell phones and texting".

The idea, as reported in VentureBeat is that Google Glass can help solve this problem. According to PR guy Chris Barrett (he's a PR guy, but not for Google), Google Glass is a safer way to drive than the old fashioned way, where you look at your smartphone while driving.

Barrett says he's driven 1,500 miles while wearing Google Glass and has been less inclined to pick up his phone while driving. He therefore believes that Google Glass can help save lives.

Okay, now... wait a minute here. Let's unwind this premise and at the same time take a rather unsettling look inside the mind of the Millennial Generation. Barrett's picture is on his Web site and it's clear we're not talking about someone who grew up listening to Jethro Tull, Foreigner, or even the B-52s. This is likely a guy who grew up with cell phones, who learned to text as he learned to spell, and thinks in 140-character chunks.

In other words, he's a digital native. I, on the other hand, am a little older. I grew up in a world where we thought it was safe to drive (or walk!) to the corner candy store (and we had corner candy stores) without having an electronic lifeline tether attached to our purses at all times. I actually went entire school days, in the actual school itself, without calling anyone or communicating electronically. When we wanted to pass notes, we passed actual paper notes.

When I learned to drive, it was impressed upon me that the stuff going on outside the car was the most important stuff while I had control of a two-ton lethal weapon.

But, apparently, today's Millennials (and a whole lot of other people) can't control themselves. They walk around, head down, staring into their phones. When they go out to a meal with friends, they look at their phones more than either their friends or their food. And when they drive, they're more concerned about a short text message on their phones than the large SUV in their rear view mirror.

In this context, Barrett's logic makes sense. He seems to believe that if our fellow road warriors won't put down their phones, why not put the phone into a heads-up display. That way, at least people looking at their messages will also be looking at the road.

He has a kind of twisted if-you-can't-beat-em-join-em logic here, but I know how this is going to turn out. Once you allow drivers to wear Google Glass, when they're not getting a text message, they'll be watching kitten videos.

They're still not going to be looking at the road.

Why, you might ask, am I writing about this in the ZDNet Health column. Why would I, an RN, be concerned about driving restrictions or freedom? I'll give you a very short answer: where do you think those 1.6 million crash visits wound up? Yeah. Those who lived wound up in the emergency room. My territory.

Do me a favor, please. Don't text and drive. Your blood works far better when it's on the inside of your body.

Go ahead and share your thoughts. Do you use Google Glass? Would you use it to drive? Can you control your urges to text at all times of the day and night? Should people under 30 simply be forced to take the bus because we know they can't control their texting-while-driving urge? Chime in below and tell us your thoughts. Be polite and constructive, please.

See also:


Topics: Google, Health


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


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  • "Can Google Glass make you a safer driver?"

    Absolutely not. Distractions are distractions.

    Like the 20-something brain-dead little b1tch I followed this morning on my way to work...with her cell phone in one hand...putting on makeup with the other (no amount of makeup would have enhanced her)...traveling 75 mph...and weaving all over the road.
    • Let them drive distracted.

      Just have a sensor in the car, where when cell phone emissions are detected from the driver's seat, the air-bags and seat belts are disconnected.
  • Give control over to the self serving car

    And become immersed in the virtual reality of Glass or just watch TV, you have no business driving a car if your not paying full time and attention.
    • Lol self serving should be self driving

      Darn auto correct is worse than my mistakes.
    • Sorry, but we are in a free country- not your dictatorship

      People should be conscientious of others while driving, but most aren't. Why don't we look at core problems instead of these frivolities?

      And if you trust computers, rely on Apple Maps any day.
  • It's not the fingers

    It does not matter *how* you use your mobile device.
    Study after study has confirmed that it's your brain, not the fingers.
    Unfortunately, it's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.
    • Eye's not fingers

      What you do with your fingers is your business.

      Sure the brain get's distracted too, but your eyes are the most important things when it comes to prioritizing your attention. The more your eyes are locked on the road and surrounding cars, pedestrians, etc. the more you will pay attention. When your eyes stop doing that is when trouble starts.

      This is why Google Glass is a huge risk, it's right in front of your eyes and it doesn't know anything about the road, cars, pedestrians, obstacles, etc on the road, but the driver needs too.
  • The answer is "Yes", but not in the manner discussed.

    I fully agree that texting or holding a phone to your ear is dangerous; it simply should not be done. Regretfully, just making a device "hands-free" isn't enough--your attention is still not on your driving. Other technology needs to be in place to stop that problem. However...

    If a Google Glass-like system were set up to create a dynamic heads-up system for the driver to better interface with the car, that would be a huge improvement. Many of today's cars have all kinds of camera and sensor systems designed to let the driver know what's going on around the car, and ALL of them take the driver's eyes off the road--there is no true spacial awareness. Were all these sensor and camera feeds integrated into a full 360° feed that brings relevant data into view as the driver turns his head or triggers a warning symbol designed to alert the driver to look in a certain direction. A split-screen style with the top quarter of the display representing rear-view would effectively eliminate the need for the driver to turn almost all the way around for backing maneuvers. In fact, they shouldn't need to do it even now with the ability of side-view mirrors able to better display areas hidden by the body of the car but the camera systems greatly improve that visibility.

    So yes, a Google Glass type of system can make you a safer driver, by improving spacial awareness. The car itself needs to block phone signals when in gear and alert the caller/sender that the recipient is driving an unable to answer.
    • alert the caller/sender that the recipient is driving an unable to answer.

      Vulpinemac has a great point. A way for an automated response to any incoming phone call. That should be relatively easy for cell companies to do. I know it's easy for them to send spam text!
    • That would be stupid.

      As it prevents a passenger from making an emergency call while the driver is occupied with navigation.
      • Not really...

        Well look at it this way, around 1.6 million times per year they wouldn't have to be making emergency calls in the first place, right?

        This may sound like a non-serious post, but I'd love to see statistics on how many times a passenger emergency call saved lives vs. how many lives were lost by drivers who used smartphones while driving. I'd be willing to bet that there is a lot more damage done by the stupid drivers than are saved by the passengers.

        Also, a lot of your concern regarding passenger emergency calls could be avoided by having the smartphone blocked only while the car is in motion, regardless of whether or not it is in gear or in park.

        One other way to solve this would be to have smartphones that were blocked in vehicles with the motor running with the exception of 911 calls which would also alleviate this issue.

        I don't see any reason to have texting at all in a car. That at least should be blocked even if phone calls are not. In a true emergency which do you think is more likely to save lives; a 911 call or texting your buddy?
  • Not really. It's just a way for them to make money instead of save lives.

    I believe Google is blinded by dollar signs to capitalize on an issue instead of using their technical ability to come up with a real solution. Using or thinking about anything else other than road safety is dangerous & encroaches on the rights of the lives around you. Not to sound ridiculous but it started with radios & has progressed through GPS, video screens, wired phones & now anything wireless. All of these are electronic items that already have intentional limitations set by the manufacturers to benefit their profit more than safety. Allowing this to go on indicates human faults of greed & stupidity.

    I would rather see Google use their proven technical advantage to come up with a way for drivers to be less distracted thus saving lives which is the only thing a driver should focus on.
    My idea - what we as a nation should do with all this technology is make it where if the car is in motion, the only send/receive data (or text) that would work is the farthest, opposite side of the car than the driver. Also, a Bluetooth earpiece should come standard with every new cell phone. A driver is supposed to be 100% focused on driving only.
    Making that mandatory should be step 1. I would think it would encourage more to car pool & save gas also.
    • Why stop there?

      Lets just mandate that nobody can get into a car without a government approved cell phone that disengages completely when in motion more than 5MPH? Maybe we could make it mandatory that fast food bags won't open until they detect that you are out of your car? Maybe we can just have the government assign everyone a "body guard" to force people to behave EXACTLY as the government prescribes! Then all you libs would be in happy land, right?
      • In what rainbow-unicorn, entitlement world do you live in?

        Where does it say that you have the right to text inane, inconsequential personal notes to your buddies over other peoples rights to not be killed or injured by some schmuck like you doing 65 mile per hour just because they couldn't be bothered to pull over into a parking lot to share the lolz?

        However I suppose it is too much to expect people like you to actually take responsibility for their own actions. It's always someone else's fault. Blame anyone but yourself, right?

        ...or better yet, put the phone down and drive like you should be doing.

        ...or even better than that, since some people seem to have overblown senses of entitlement and lack of self control, we should use available technology to stop them from doing this kind of stuff in the first place.
  • As someone who commutes by bicycle...

    keep you full attention on the road while you drive your 2 ton vehicle. Thank you.
    • Or...

      bicyclist could follow the rules of the road too.
  • I agree

    I figure if people realize they can watch Breaking Bad while driving, a few folks will be dumb enough to try to.
  • 911 . . . the ONLY legitimate reason you should use any phone while driving

    Not for talking, not even hands free.
  • "Can Google Glass make you a safer driver?" NO WAY!!!

    No amount of technology can enhance safe driving beyond common sense acts of the drivers themselves. Even with technology embedded in the car, each new gadget introduced represents another risk to life. The distraction of even the simplest of devices can be disastrous.

    Recently, integrated radio/hvac/tire pressure/GPS/cell phone/Bluetooth/touch screen devices have appeared in some new cars. They are no better and their use has become universally more complex and distracting for the operator.

    Having searched long for an aftermarket stereo with a volume knob you can turn without pressing seven other buttons in the process, I say we are regressing in terms of automobile safety.

    The point is, we need to stop encouraging the use of this stuff.. universally!! Some newer cars require the use of a co-pilot to operate the radio. It's ridiculous that we spent decades making cars safer, demanding ergonomics, air bags, ABS and the sort yet we tolerate the erosion of our safety in this manner.

    I don't want you to call me while I'm driving and I won't be calling you either. NO voice, NO text, NOTHING!

    I don't want my car powered by Microsoft or any other integrated flat panel gadget controlling the heater or radio. Don't make me search through the menus to find the air conditioner.

    The best way to make it safe?
    1) Stop putting these things in our automobiles
    2) Routinely arrest the twitter text drunks behind the wheel
    3) Show zero tolerance for stupidity

  • No

    Period end of story. They still can't maintain focus just like the driving while texting or talking people can't either.