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Should Google Glass be banned from the road?
A West Virginia lawmaker wants to disallow drivers from wearing the futuristic headset
Whatever you do, Sergey Brin, don't take Google Glass for a joyride in West Virginia.
Whatever you do, Sergey Brin, don't take Google Glass for a joyride in West Virginia. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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f the Android braintrust of Mountain View has its way, Google Glass — an in-development "augmented reality" monocle — will usher us into a bright future popping with at-the-ready information and pixels. Lawmakers in West Virginia, however, aren't exactly embracing Google's vision of the future, and are introducing new legislation to ban Google's computerized eyewear from the road.

A new bill proposed by Republican Gary G. Howell aims to make it illegal to operate a vehicle while "using a wearable computer with head mounted display." The bill doesn't call out Google by name, but of course, it's easy to read between the lines. "I actually like the idea of the product and I believe it is the future," Howell told CNET, "but last legislature we worked long and hard on a no-texting-and-driving law." Glass, which performs many of the same functions as a smartphone, may needlessly put drivers' lives at risk, Howell argues.

It is mostly the young that are the tech-savvy that try new things. They are also our most vulnerable and underskilled drivers. We heard of many crashes caused by texting and driving, most involving our youngest drivers. I see the Google Glass as an extension. [CNET]

Although an incredibly tiny percentage of humans have ever touched Google's $1,500 face-phone for themselves, the technology has already driven a fierce wedge between critics. Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine, for example, says the device's privacy and sociological concerns have inspired a "technopanic" that may be overwrought; after all, he argues, doomsayers voiced similar concerns about adding cameras to cellular phones about a decade ago. "To ban or limit a technology before it is even implemented and understood is the definition of short-sighted," says Jarvis

Others, like Gawker's Adrian Chen, say the legal concerns raised by Glass are perfectly valid and shouldn't be shrugged off. Even the most ardent futurist should proceed with caution.

Because of the rush to embrace that new technology we now have outdated privacy laws that are unable to deal with the problems posed by the explosion of tiny cameras. So we have revenge porn that flourishes because its victims have little legal recourse to get naked pictures of themselves posted to the internet without their consent taken down. I believe that someday something like Google Glass will become accepted and normal, but that doesn't mean we should just blissfully boogie-board down the wave of Progress and hope it's not going to deposit us into a shark's mouth. [Gawker]

Meanwhile, Adam Ozimek at Forbes thinks Howell's legislation misses the point. Wearable computing technology like Glass "will mostly be a substitute for texting while driving," says Ozimek. "If someone is going to interact with others while driving it seems obvious that hands-free Google Glass communication will be safer than texting, as it allows you to keep looking forward at the road."

Although Howell isn't confident the driving ban will pass, he hopes the bill's introduction will force lawmakers to take a harder look at emerging technologies and the risks they carry. "I am a libertarian, and government has no business protecting us from ourselves," he said, "but it does have a duty to make sure I don't injure or kill someone else."

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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