Drivers may be jailed for Google Glass use

Wearable technology is set to become a major legal minefield for Australians – and a potential goldmine for lawyers – after it emerged that drivers could be jailed for wearing Google Glass.


There are currently no domestic laws specifically referencing wearable technology devices, which according to a recent Australian Interactive Media Association study will be purchased by 22 per cent of Australians this year.

That means it has become increasingly unclear what devices motorists can or can’t use behind the wheel.

For example, it’s perfectly legal to look at your watch while driving.

Using a smartphone is not.

How about looking at a smartwatch, the new wrist-mounted computers with capabilities similar to smartphones?

What about driving with Google Glass switched off?

Legal problems surrounding Google Glass are already playing out in the US and lawyers and the NRMA believe Australian law will have to be updated and clarified – especially once Google Glass goes on sale here, possibly later this year.

“The reality is that as technology speeds up, law-makers will need to constantly review existing legislation, and we suspect that law-makers in NSW will have to do the same with these glasses,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told AAP.

“We don’t want to pre-empt anything – only to say we’d expect law-makers to do what they did when the iPhone and iPad came on the market – and that is ensure the legislation covers off anything that may be deemed a major distraction.”

With no relevant new legislation in the pipeline, police have suggested they may use existing dangerous driving or driving while distracted laws to charge motorists using Google Glass behind the wheel.

Penalties for those offences potentially include large fines or jail, in cases with aggravated circumstances.

“There is no specific legislation that has been introduced or likely to be introduced at this stage in regards to Google Glass,” a South Australia Police spokesman told AAP.

“Having said that – someone using a shaver, putting on makeup or using Google Glass could be reported if their driving reflected they were driving without due care or due attention.”

Victoria Police added: “Driving is a complex task that requires full concentration and it’s essential that drivers minimise the risk of distraction in their vehicle.

“Anyone caught using mobile phones, GPS or other electronic devices while driving could face penalties.”

Aside from motoring, the challenge of using today’s laws to police tomorrow’s technology are myriad in dozens of other areas of life and have already arisen in the US, where most of the 30,000 Google Glass devices that have been made available to triallists are owned.

A man who recently went to a US cinema wearing Google Glass (turned off) was interrogated by FBI agents for an hour because employees thought that he was recording the movie.

And a San Diego traffic court last week threw out a case against a female motorist caught using Google Glass – because prosecutors could not prove the device was in operation.

That case may set an short-term precedent across parts of the US.

But three states, including West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey have already introduced specific laws dealing with driving while using Google Glass.

Google Australia declined to comment on this story, but one of its websites offers the following advice to motorists wondering if they can use Google Glass while driving: “It depends on where you are and how you use it.”

Meanwhile, there are privacy concerns, for example what about wearing Google Glass at the beach or around children?

One lawyer, who did not want to be identified, told AAP: “It’s (wearable technology) going to be a minefield for consumers because it’s a major grey area.

“I should think some lawyers are licking their lips.”

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