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Wearable technology and driving safety, part 1: Google Glass

The problem of texting while driving is far from solved. The collision between America’s decades-old car-driven culture and its newfound obsession with portable digital devices is fraught with tension.

And when those devices distract drivers, the result far too often is car accidents that should have been avoided.

But what about so-called “wearable electronics,” as the tech industry calls Google Glass and other such devices? In this two-part post, we will take note of this timely issue.

The issue is hardly an abstract one. Last fall, authorities pulled a woman over in San Diego for wearing Google Glass while driving.

To be sure, not so long ago wearable electronics were the stuff of science fiction. In the 1990s, on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Geordi la Forge, a character played by Levar Burton, wore a visor with computer-like capacities.

But the evolution of technological enhancements to human senses has continued unabated. Google Glass, a wearable head apparatus with optical data displays, is essentially a wearable computer. And Google is making plans for a wider and wider rollout of the device to consumers.

Indeed, in a sign of how far the technology has come, Levar Burton is now one of the spokespersons Google has chosen to test the new apparatus.

As consumers, we have seen waves of change like this before. After all, the “communicators” of the original Star Trek series in a sense were forerunners of today’s smartphones. Something similar may be happening now with Google Glass and other wearable technologies.

Our concern in this blog, however, is that from a safety standpoint technology can cut both ways. It can increase safety or decrease it, depending on how it is used.

We will explore that theme further in part two of this post.

Source: CNBC, "Google Glass's unlikely testers: Your local cops," Maggie Overfelt, Jan. 7, 2013

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