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Wearable technology and driving safety, part 2: cognitive overload

In the first part of this post, we noted the current fascination among digital early-adopters for so-called wearable technology.

As we discussed, access to the data streams when trying to drive a motor vehicle safely would be a double-edged sword. This is because the data that Google Glass and other wearable technologies make available runs the risk of overwhelming the cognitive capacities of human users.

In this part of the post, we will elaborate on this concept of cognitive overload as it relates to car accidents.

Though we made several science-fiction references in the first part of this post, we also observed that there has already been at least one arrest – in San Diego, no less – for driving while wearing Google Glass.

In essence, the issue is the same as for other forms of distracted driving. When the mind is distracted by something else, it is unable to concentrate properly on the main task at hand – which is safe driving.

The fact that someone was distracted by data feeds from Google Glass, rather than stimuli from a cellphone or some other device, does not really matter. Distraction is distraction, regardless of the source.

And so, in the Google Glass ticket case in San Diego, the code section used in the citation was the same as for an onboard television or video monitor.

To be sure, many vehicles do have such monitors. But under California law, they cannot be visible to the driver.

It is true that there are various exceptions to the law, such as for mapping displays. But the concern about distracted driving that is the basis for the general rule against screen displays is very real.

After all, the appearance of Google may be quite exciting technologically. But it has not changed the capacity of the human mind to absorb only so much information at one time before reaching cognitive overload.

Source: Glass Almanac, "California Woman Gets the First Ticket for Driving with Google Glass," Matt McGee, Oct. 30, 2013

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