In yet another example of the confusion that can exist when the laws fail to keep up with modern technology, a woman in California was recently found not guilty after being cited for driving while wearing Google Glass. The woman made history as the first person to ever be cited for wearing the new gadget, something that experts say was likely the first of many such cases. Earlier this month a judge in San Diego found Cecilia Abadie not guilty of distracted driving. The judge said that there was not sufficient evidence that the Google Glass was engaged while Abadie was driving. However, the holding specified that it should not be mistaken as approval for driving with the glasses on, saying the ruling was narrowly applied to facts of Abadie’s case.
Abadie was charged under a section of California code that makes it illegal for a driver to operate a television or video screen while a vehicle is in motion. Prosecutors argued that the state’s law is written broadly enough to include the use of Google Glass. The judge agreed that the device might fall within the regulation, but only if the Google Glass was activated while the driver was operating the car.
Abadie is apparently a big fan of the Google Glass and even wore the device around her neck during the entirety of the trial. She also testified that the screen is situated above her line of vision and that it can be operated by voice controls or even winking, saying that it presents no distraction even when it is operational. Abadie’s attorney argued that anything could be a dangerous distraction under the right circumstances, even tuning the radio. As a result, he says that legislators need to rule that Google Glass can be safely used while someone is driving; a determination he says will ensure that other drivers avoid similar criminal charges. So far Abadie is looking at an uphill battle, with lawmakers in Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia already introducing bills that ban driving while wearing Google Glass.
Google Glass is a thumbnail-sized device that comes attached to a pair of glasses. The technology is currently in a beta testing phase and is only being given to thousands of people Google refers to as “explorers.” Starting late this year, Google says it intends to sell the glasses to the public, potentially setting off a host of new distracted driving cases around the country.
Though the ruling, which came from a local traffic court, does not set a legal precedent in California or elsewhere, legal scholars say that the ruling represents the first in what many believe will be a long line of cases concerning advanced technology. Another Google product, its driverless cars, presents similar challenges that will need to be resolved by judges in the not-so-distant future. One issue that legal observers have noted is what will happen when a Google-piloted car is involved in an accident. Who will be responsible for the resulting damage? The human passengers? The manufacturer of the vehicle? Or Google itself, maker of the car’s software?
Time will tell.