Google Pushing Back Against Distracted Driver Laws
February 27, 2014

Google Pushing Back Against Distracted Driver Laws

Flexing its lobbying muscles, Google is pushing back against distracted driver laws and legislation in Illinois, Delaware and Missouri – a push that has been seen as an attempt to prevent the restriction of Google Glass behind the wheel.

It looks like Google has a lot of work to do, as safety concerns and deadly accidents will undoubtedly mount against the campaign. So far, the company has simply said that Google Glass is only in the testing phase, so any push to regulate the device is premature.

Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, who introduced a bill restricting Google Glass in December, said it was clear the device would become more prevalent in the near future.

“Who are they fooling?” he asked Reuters.

The state-level lobbying isn’t the first advocacy push Google has made. On the federal level, Google has lobbied hard on a range of its interests, from privacy concerns to immigration. In November, it was revealed that the company is the 8th-biggest lobbyer.

As technology companies shift emphasis from mobile devices to wearables, it will undoubtedly inspire government officials, companies and advocacy groups to stake out positions on their use. On its website and in public demonstration, Google has emphasized the utilitarian aspects of Glass – describing it as a uniter of individuals – not a divider.

“While Glass is currently in the hands of a small group of Explorers,” the company said, “we find that when people try it for themselves they better understand the underlying principle that it’s not meant to distract but rather connect people more with the world around them.”

However, the device’s current $1,500 price tag makes notion of Glass being technology that unites a hard one to see – and potentially easier to pass laws regulating its use. One only has to look at the ubiquity of cell phones and realize that connecting people doesn’t necessarily equate to being free from regulation.

The clandestine nature of the device may also be working against it, since it is difficult for a law enforcement officer to prove whether Google Glass had been operating when someone is driving.

“The way to get around it is just to prohibit them altogether,” said Maryland House of Delegates member Benjamin Kramer.

When asked by Reuters about its lobbying endeavors in the states discussing distracted driver laws, the company simply responded, “We think it is important to be part of those discussions.”

It’s easy to see a future where Google Glass is heavily regulated at first, and then – as the device and others like it become ubiquitous – some regulations are peeled back in the ensuing decades.

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Brett Smith is a freelance journalist from Buffalo, NY. When not writing about science, medicine or other newsworthy topics, he enjoys Upstate New York by camping and hiking in the summers and snowboarding in the winters. Like most Buffalonians, he eats chicken wings year round.

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