Android Wear in the car

Distracted driving is worse when your device is always out and always on

Make no mistake — we're pretty psyched about Android Wear here at AC. We see the potential, the way it can change the way you use your Android smartphone, and how convenient things can can be when the info you need or want is at the end of your arm. But we also see some issues that need addressed by both the people making the new hardware as well as the people using it.

The biggest one, in my opinion, is a matter of public safety. Android Wear makes it even easier to take your eyes off the road.


Even lawmakers have an acceptable level of distraction

We're all mostly responsible people here. We know that when we're driving, our attention needs to be on the road at all times. Of course, we're also hypocrites of a sort — who hasn't changed the radio station or reached for a bottle of water while jamming down the road at speeds fast enough to do some serious damage should we hit something or someone? We'd be lying if we said that none of us has ever let something other than the road in front of us catch our attention.

But not all distractions are equal. Tapping a button on your steering wheel to change the radio station or the track on a CD isn't the same as reading the newspaper or playing Angry Birds on your tablet. Even the lawmakers out there have an acceptable level of distraction, and in most places you can tap a button on a Bluetooth speaker while driving, for example, and still be in control of the driving situation in their eyes. We agree. Those of us who do a lot of driving likely use Bluetooth to take calls or hear messages, and think it's a good middle-ground between 100 percent focus on the road and driving distracted and dangerously.

Ain't nobody got time for Hall and Oates

not all distractions are equal

Android Wear, though, is not a Bluetooth speaker. It's a glowing screen right where you can't help but notice it, and it vibrates to make sure you know it wants attention. When it demands you look at it, you almost look out of instinct. It's buzzing on your wrist because you told it to buzz when things happen that you think are important. If you give in and take a peek, you're going to have to touch, swipe, and read. That combination while behind the wheel will lead to bad results eventually.

I'm not going to shrug off the personal responsibility factor here. Each and every one of us using Android Wear is fully capable of ignoring it while we're driving. If we don't, we're putting ourselves and others at risk. I want to think that all of us feel this way, and we'll never tap, swipe and read a notification on our watch while we're driving. But I know that's not true.

OK Google navigate me to safety

it's up to each of us to police ourselves

Manufacturers and Google need to build a sort of driving mode into Android Wear and take this temptation away. I've said the same sort of thing about Google Glass. Unless you make it easy to stop distracting people behind the wheel, some people will be distracted behind the wheel. In fact, I'd love to see a developer build a car mode app for Wear that kills notifications and only displays the time or a speedometer so if we do look at our watch we won't see anything significant.

Maybe something like this is in the works at Google, or third-party developers have an answer in the works and we just haven't heard about it yet. Maybe not. For now, it's up to each of us to police ourselves. If you just can't help but look when the little box on your wrists demands, take it off and put it in your car's console or glove box.