Google Glass

We could talk for days and days about Google Glass and whether it's distracting while driving. And we will continue to talk about it. It doesn't matter that Glass still costs $1,500 and that so few people have it — we're Exploring, remember? Pardon the pun, but we're supposed to be experiencing these speed bumps along the way.

That said, I think it was pretty evident last week how traffic court perhaps isn't the best arena for these discussions. It's too easy for one's passion for Glass to overwhelm the story. It's too easy to misinterpret the technicalities of courtroom procedure. We saw that in the broad spectrum of headlines. "GLASS IS LEGAL!" (Actually, the traffic commissioner, said, it's not.) "Ticket for Google Glass driving dismissed." Yeah, but that's not really what was important. Driving with Glass — or other similar wearables — will sort itself out in the coming months and years. Of that I have no doubt.

There are still too many of us with one hand on the wheel — and the other on a phone.

Driving home this afternoon, though, I was reminded that Glass really has been a distraction — from the larger story. There still are far too many of us in the driver's seat with phones in our hands. Never mind space-age contraptions on our faces. The real danger comes from the phone that should be in our pocket. 

It doesn't matter what operating system it runs. It doesn't matter whether it has the latest updates. Screen size, RAM, processor speed, the number of cores — none of that means a thing when it comes to taking your eyes off the road.

I'm still not perfect at this. I strap my young daughters into child seats in the back but too often put them in danger from three feet in front. This has to stop. I have to do better. We all have to better. 

We're going to continue to talk about this in 2014. I'm convinced that it's still one of the most important conversations to be had in the mobile space.

A few other thoughts on the week that was:

  • Speaking of Google Glass, our Through Glass series will resume soon after a few weeks away for the holidays at CES.
  • Another editorial initiative we're going to get back to is doing more basic how-to posts for major devices. That means you'll be seeing headlines that, frankly, are beneath many of us here. But one of the things I love about Android Central is that we've never been afraid to want to help newcomers to the Android space. And we're going to improve our efforts to do so.
  • (That also means if and when folks start complaining about those basic posts, I'm going to refer them to this column and say "Hey, we told you this was happening. Suck it up and enjoy all our other content instead.")
  • I've had a Nest for nearly a week now since Google bought the company, and no Google+ spam has appeared on my living room wall. 
  • And the Nest is making me wish I had a nicer wall to put it on. It looks that good.
  • We're slowly starting to put things together for Mobile World Congress, which is only about a month away. It'll be more traditional coverage, and not anything near the scope of what we did at CES.
  • If you haven't read Alex Dobie's take on Android OS updates, stop what you're doing (erm, which is reading this column) and read it now.
  • We now have Android apps for CrackBerry, iMore and Smartwatch Fans. WPCentral is up next, and after that we'll get back to our own Android Central app and some long-awaited features. Thanks for your patience.

And with that, I'm going back to football. See ya'll on Monday.

There are 64 comments

You guys should also bring back the "From the mail bag" series.

jazbojenkins says:

Go Google glass (please come down in price) and go Seahawks!

Posted via Android Central App

dancing-bass says:

I agree... I actually didn't realize I how much I was missing it until you mentioned it. Phil, can you guys take a look at bringing this feature back as well?

fmxbrando says:

It doesn't matter if it has the latest update... unless it's a Moto X with complete hands free texting. I tested it out riding passenger and I received a text, it read it to me, I replied with voice and it sent it all without me taking my hand off the wheel or my eyes off the road. Still a distraction compared to not getting a text at all, but impressive none the less.

Every time I'm in the car and my phone buzzes in my pocket, I think about how ridiculous it is that something like Motorola Assist hasn't been implemented industry-wide yet. Or even a better way to interact with the music on a device while one is driving. Even saying "Okay Google, text xxxx" requires me to wake my device and navigate to the home screen. With state laws banning all phone interaction behind the wheel, this should be at the forefront of smartphone R & D instead of useless gimmicks like curved screens and knocking twice on a screen.

mwara244 says:

I don't touch my phone at all while driving. When at a red light I'll pick it up to check it or to make sure my GMaps is still on par. I never answer text or calls while driving and don't care too. People will understand that and can wait a few minutes for you to contact them back. How important is a call or text anyways next to your life and all the other distracted drivers out there?

Just an FYI, I actually saw a woman in an suv reading an actual hardback book while driving in the fast lane down the highway at 70 mph, had it sitting on the steering wheel, talk about messed up.

mwatson2 says:

I've simply accepted that I can't multi-task. I scare myself when I try to answer the phone and drive. I'm like you, red lights only.

DWR_31 says:

Has anyone noticed that the Galaxy Series have a similar feature.
Have the Stay Awake while charging, Hands-Free(Driving Mode), and Awake with Voice Commands features activated, and you pretty much have the same thing.

S-Voice just isn't as accurate.

Posted via Android Central Beta Tablet App!
Hisense Sero 7 Pro

Jack33 says:

Google Glass, like talking on your cell phone, like texting on your smartphone, like driving drunk, all distracts the driver from focusing on what matters: driving, being on the lookout for pedestrians, avoiding hazards, etc. You should never drive while wearing Google Glass.

Because it doesn't matter what you say about how the picture in Google Glass is off to the side, how you can still see what's going on with the other eye, peripheral vision, whatever. The fact remains that you are distracted when focus on something else besides driving. One of these days, someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Sean Kelly2 says:


I think what the article was stating was that it isn't _just_ Glass that is distracting, but the fact that all the tech in the car can be distracting.

We have radios w/ XM/Sirius (hundreds of channels), A/C and Heating systems that have to use a hi-res screen to set the temp, power seats for adjusting, DVD systems for the kids in the back seat, HUDs on the windshield, in-dash GPS, in-dash texting/twitter/spotify, etc.

I guess my position is these things are as much as a distraction as you allow them to be; personal responsibility. Are some people not responsible, you bet. Will they get into accidents because they are fiddling with the GPS while driving; yep.

So, it seems like some people are advocating to have a steering wheel, speedometer and fuel guage and nothing else in their car. Passengers must remain silent at all times. Hmm, sounds like we are looking for perfection in an imperfect world.

No further legislation or changes need to be made. People need to be held responsible for their actions; not more laws to help fill the coffers of the lawyers and courts.

icebike says:

Exactly this.

We need to use the technology with hands free, and not at all in traffic conditions. No entering addresses in the GPS or fondling your phone in response to every beep or buzz.

Its not that hard to do.
Set the phone to auto-reply when driving if you have the feature, or just turn off all sound and vibration if not. Let Google Voice handle it for you.

JaylanPHNX says:

Preach on, brother! Once we start making laws to prevent people from doing something that may be risky (rather than punishing people for harm they actually cause), where does it end? Legislating safety is a fool's errand.

ScottJ says:

I agreed with you until the last sentence. Seat belt laws have saved thousands of lives over the years, including mine.

Yes, they all distract the driver from the road. Like taking your eyes off the road to look at your side mirrors and rear-view mirror or the radio or GPS. It is no more distracting then any of those items.

Actually they are. If you look in your mirrors, your mind is still on driving. If you're texting, you completely zone out, and accidents happen really fast when you do that. I was hit by a car last week while crossing the road because the driver simply didn't see she had gotten a red light while "multitasking" with her phone. Luckily I wasn't hurt bad, but had she looked up half a second later, I would have.

Some countries are even talking about banning hands-free phones, as you are really not paying much more attention using one of those while driving.

Tim Wallis says:

But who says to stop there.. Is tech really the only distraction? How about we ban eating food in the car and other passengers.

It really isn't so black and white. Whose to say that standard radio that your flipping stations on isn't distracting.. Or keeping that driver more awake after a long haul..

I see things like the moto x and Google glass and see a nice stop gap solution until we have automated cars. Until then, everything is a distraction. Once humans are removed from the equation there is no distraction.

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Pedalbflat says:

Wait... I thought we already banned "eating... other passengers"... JK

Great points, though. Sorry for the sarcasm. Couldn't help it... :-)

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Cory S says:

Getting lost is a bigger distraction to me. Having to concentrate on each street name coming up, trying to figure out if I need to be in the left or right lane, etc. Phones have mad me a far safer driver in the big city, and I would think glass could make it even better.

dancing-bass says:

+1 for "back to basics" posts. That's how I learned so much about Nexus stuff, and I'm sure I could STILL learn a lot about other devices and how-to's

+1 for bringing back the "From the Mailbag" as well, I miss those.

+1 for upcoming MWC. I'm looking forward to it


-1 for not actually being able to "+1" stuff in your weekly editorials. Not sure how that would work, but it would be cool.

Side note: Phil, I've really come to appreciate how you organize your "From the editor's desk" posts every week:

Main point. 3 paragraphs or so. Covers the highlights well, without missing anything - and still somehow makes you want to go back and dig into it if you haven't already

Bullet points
- quick
- blurbs
- to
- cover
- the
- "other stuff"

Quick sign off.

love it. It works, and it works well

And a lot easier to read (and write) than the thousand-word  epics early on. :)



LeroyRJR says:

Couldn't have said it better

Posted via my outdated Droid RAZR Maxx HD using the Android Central App

krsgdlw says:

Google Glass: Appropriate time as to when and where to wear Google Glass needs to be defined. As stated, this hopefully will be determined in the next few months prior to when Google Glass becomes a mainstream product.

Newcomer Posts: Great! Just switched from an iPhone 5C to HTC One.

Android Apps: Have not downloaded the Smartwatch Fans app only because I do not have one (smartwatch).

icebike says:

If you would't walk in to any situation with a video camera, (and risk getting punched in the face), then don't wear the glass. Have a little respect.

With Ford and others adding HUD to their vehicles, there is less reason to suggest Glass can't be used safely while driving for navigation apps. We will just have to let the law and the apps catch up with the technology. If accident rates with glass proves higher than without, they get banned. Let the science speak.

Science very rarely plays a role in law. If the government can get money from it they're going to fne you for it, regardless.

Posted via Android Central App

jrsharp70 says:

Since I got an android phone, I've downloaded many apps trying to fix this problem.

Until the Moto X and the assist app, it's never worked. That includes dragon, vlingo, Samsung, etc.

Even better, I have it respond automatically that I'm driving, and call if it's important. I never even have to look at the phone. It's like I'm talking to someone in the passenger seat.

The Moto x is the best device I've ever owned.

Posted via Android Central App

icebike says:

Agreed about the moto.

But its not like talking to someone in the passenger seat. That person would see a situation develop, and shut up, or call your attention to it.

The guy on the other end just keeps yapping.

Not saying you should never talk on hands free, but probably never in traffic. And be aware it is still not the same as driving listening to music, so don't try to fool yourself into thinking it is.

JaylanPHNX says:

It's funny that everyone says the Moto X is the first Android phone to read texts and allow you to respond, but one little phone did it long ago. The HTC MyTouch4G for T-Mobile had that little MyTouch button/app and it would read texts and let you voice reply.

Moo Cow says:

You know what I like here? Phil is open and honest and not writing some holier-than-thou dribble that others may write on the subject. He admits his flaws and is open to discussing them. In that sense, you feel like Phil truly is a real person and not just some guy behind a screen writing words. (Not that I ever envisioned him as a robot, but I feel my general point is getting across.)

I am definitely interested in the Google Glass ramifications regarding safety. What happens now could very well impact many things down the road, not just with Glass. I read every AC story on Glass and will continue to do so. Knowing I am going to get real, first-person reporting that isn't pulling punches reinforces why I read those stories.


A great post from Phil, as always.

Also, queue the typical Google-Glass trolls, lol.

drokssilva says:

Lol. +900

Posted via my thumbs and Google Keyboard.

drokssilva says:

Lol. +900

Posted via my thumbs and Google Keyboard.

weavminas says:

When I got in my car I sent a chat message that I knew would spark a conservation with my friends. I usually have my phone on the Seat and plugged in the aux jack, but since I'm caught up on podcasts I put it back in my pocket.
I just got home and the first thing I read was this article, and haven't checked the chat. I guess it really can wait.

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mrgwap03 says:

Just a thought. Put the google glass tech in the windshield... Maps on the windshield. Text in coming calls. Etc.. and fully touch screen yes

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mrgwap03 says:

New 2015 impala running Android 4.4.2. And the abilities to say to ur car.. OK google... Lol I would pay top dollar for that

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Moo Cow says:

Or a 2015 Buick. I can see it now...

Peyton Manning: "OK Google... OMAHA! OMAHA!"

mrgwap03 says:

Yes Buick lacross running Android 4.4.2 lol they would sell alot of cars. Google would boost that industry up

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panda_mode says:


jackwagon06 says:


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tdizzel says:

You want to put all that on the windshield and make it a touchscreen? Really? Wow! That is by far the worst idea ever in the history of mankind, and there have been lots of bad ideas. you are really begging people to crash their cars aren't you.

mrgwap03 says:

No it wouldn't be bad. It would only show on to the side and it would be transparent... U could see ur notifications on it. And gps.. Lol come on now... Better than looking down at ur phone. And of course the text to speech would be good to use to

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tdizzel says:

You are saying to interact with your windshield via touch while driving and don't think its a bad idea? Really? Wow!

David Horgan says:

Can't be any worse than the people who've been driving around with no headlights on in the early AM and PM down here at least in Florida. Must be all the middle aged/ older people going through a midlife crisis denying the fact their vision isn't what it used to be.

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polarimetric says:

I've always believed that we need to allow a certain level of distraction in the car because if the laws go too far, people will throw caution to the wind and revert to the worst possible option. Texting or interacting with a phone in the traditional way--looking down at the screen and touching things--while driving should absolutely be illegal. That's why we've developed hands-free methods of interaction, car mounts, etc. As long as those things stay legal, I think even many people who text while driving would see it as a reasonable tradeoff--use voice commands instead to avoid committing a crime. But if we now make voice interactions illegal and say you can't use your phone/Glass/whatever in your car, period, all of those people are gonna say, "Screw it, I'm texting while driving." Overzealous legislation is no better than no legislation at all.

That's the same way I see Google Glass. Yes, it's not ideal for people to wear it while driving, but it is better than the alternative (traditional use of a phone while driving) and does not involve hands. We need to accept that some people are going to use their phones while driving even if it's illegal (just like people still speed, still drive drunk, still drive under the influence of drugs, etc.) and focus on providing palatable alternatives rather than trying to make everything illegal.

Sam Joy says:

I once saw a woman juggle two oranges and banana whilst applying lipstick...I understand this woman had talents unbeknownst to many, so it's why Laws can't be individualized but need to be generalized in applying to the masses, and given our collective ineptitude of arrogance of self, we will likely not understand why some of the Laws are as they are...

ScottJ says:

I would like to propose a law banning capitalizing regular nouns in the middle of the sentence. The penalty? Death. You would be the first one arrested.

Sam Joy says:

Google Glass is one of the first big company supported and highly publicised device for a visual wearable mobile device of this kind, and given it puberty into the world of ineptitudes of mankinds dummies such as Jake and Alan Harper, Moe,Larry and Curly with sometimes Shemp of the Three Stooges! and lets not forget the Gilligans and Forest Gumps of our Society!, so before we learn all the things of greatness we can do with said devices, we as always must learn all the "WHAT NOT TO DO!" lessons! will have to go through many iterations before something usable with a minimal of Legal Law suits against it!....Mankind is slow to learn and often repeats past mistakes more than once!

ScottJ says:

I know at least one thing not to do, use all caps.

Banjo999 says:

I really like this article, I don't really give a shit about the topic, I just like the article. Good job, I'll go read more.

808Mobi says:

When I drive, my Agent app kicks in. If I receive a text, it will read it to me, and send a text back to the sender telling them that I'm driving and cannot respond until it's safe. If it's important, I'll pull over. If it's not, I'll wait. Perfect app and works flawlessly everytime (including today).

We have to be responsible. There are apps that make our smart phones genius phones. We have to be smart in getting the right app and setting it up appropriately.

hoosiercub says:

I'd like to stop feeling like we're part of a nanny state. I realize that distracted driving is reckless and hurts others. I am very capable and very attentive while driving, even if I'm "distracted" by switching the song, or glancing at my phone to check the GPS.

I think a lot of this goes back to the fact that getting a driver's license in the US is formidably easy. It has essentially removed people's respect for driving itself, thus the driving a car as an appliance feel for most of the current US drivers. If playing with your phone or GPS or radio is distracting, is shifting a manual transmission also not distracting? The shift lever is not in the line of sight, neither are gauges for that matter, are they distracting too? Should we not be allowed to look down away from the road to check how fast we're going, the engine temperature, or fuel level?

All I'm saying is that distraction is sort've a case to case basis, by nature some people are just more connected with the road and their surroundings. They'll use their best judgement to decide what is and isn't safe, even when you're expecting the unexpected. My flawless driving record proves that distracted driving is only a problem for those who aren't really aware of the road/cars/animals/pedestrians around them to begin with. I've never had any close calls while glancing at a device while driving, because I limit my use while driving, using my judgement, from my common sense.

Devlyn16 says:

I've said it before I'll say it again. Distracted driving has not been sufficently researched to determine if Practice and Training can resolve the problems people ahve with it. At this stage it is similar to taking people who have never driven before putting then behind the wheel ofa car and saying "people who drive cause accidents".

Deaf people have been Driving and conversing in sign language since the advent of the motorcar. This requires a switch of foucs from outside the vehicle to the interior and back to the outside. Deaf people LEARN to do this so it is a Skill. Which means we need to develop methods to teach the skill. Teach people to do it properly and safely.

ScottJ says:

You too? What's with the random capitalizing of words today? Unless you are a sock-puppet for the other guy doing the exact same thing.

kenyee says:

It's always the irresponsible that mess up society. I take driving a two ton missile seriously. No eating. No answering phones. Because if you make a mistake, you can kill someone :-(

takpro says:

I spent 4 hours on the interstate this week end. I saw 5 accidents; all rear-enders.A classic sign of someone not paying attention. All the productivity gained by all the new technology was wasted by sitting in long lines of dead stopped traffic: not to mention the added pollution.

Yes please, on the back-to-basics.I've really messed up my desktop trying to figure out the best way to back-up and exchange files with my Nexus 5.I only hope your regular readers and contributors will spare the newbies the "everybody knows that".

mikiem says:

Take away all the accidents caused by stuff like texting & drunk driving etc. and you still have more than 50% caused by driver error & stuff like equipment failure. People neglect things like tires & brakes -- even though they rarely fail completely, all it takes sometimes is increasing your stopping distance by a few feet for your life to be changed forever.

Using your cell while driving can indeed be dangerous, but it's also a bit of a scapegoat -- it's much more acceptable to do a PSA saying don't text and drive than it is to get on TV and say don't be such an idiot behind the wheel. I'm afraid that the current PR push takes some of the focus off of equally, maybe even more serious problems. Yes, Android Central should talk about it because that's their area, but it is only one dimension out of many. And I think that the discussion should mention the point of view that like cars or even guns, it's the person using them for bad purposes &/or irresponsibly that's the problem. Is a very poor driver less prone to cause an accident if you take away their cell? Would something else just distract them, like reaching for a notepad & writing a list, or trying to read a printed map, or turning to talk to the friend they brought along because without the cell driving's boring?

Just because you're talking & thinking about this stuff, that puts you in the class of more responsible drivers. You are in the minority. You can do everything right, without compromise, & still be disabled or worse the next time you venture out on the roads. You're justified in being a bit paranoid about other drivers. You need to be aware of everything else, everyone else in the cars & trucks around you. I think [MHO anyway] that practicing that sort of situational awareness can very well include things like Glass or your cell, whereas a sort of tunnel vision focused solely on your driving & what's in front of you makes you & any passengers [much?] more vulnerable.

Your reaction times may be great, but you can't beat the laws of physics & you can't account for every variable in a crisis. Being proactive matters -- your life & the lives of your passengers often depend on it. I believe it's less about hoping to spot an accident the moment it happens, and more about being able to predict the accident & avoiding it. It's less about worrying about the 1/4 second your eyes aren't on the road ahead of you, because you've got to check mirrors & speedometer & all that anyway, and much more on being aware of everything with your mind fully engaged on everything.

Good OL MC says:

Basic how-to content is great. For every nine things I already know how to do I see one thing I wasn't aware of. Plus, helping new users is a great way to grow the community.

Posted with a HTC One via Android Central App

ads says:

On the distractions issue, thank you. I hope you can maintain honesty as you learn more.
Those who understand how the brain works already know, and the results are published, about how brains do (or more correctly don't) multitask. It is KNOWN, that texting is 8x more likely to cause a significant accident than drinking alcohol. It is known that simply talking on a phone, even hands-free, is way more distracting than most understand. I expect, but haven't seen objective data, that speaking a text is worse than talking, but slightly better than looking at a screen and keyboard to text.

So if you would choose to cite factual resource, this could eliminate a lot of the ambiguity.
Every one of us who is honest (or at least mildly observant about what's going on when we drive) has had a situation that was a close call or significant lane correction, missed exit, whatever, from using our devices. The fallacy is that we get better at it over time. We don't, past the first couple of times with a new device, it is near to the same risk each time.

jozjonlin says:

I'm one of the few here who will probably say this, but I really don't care being politically correct. I use my phone when I drive. A lot. And I'm not going to stop. Thankfully, I live in one of the few states without restrictions on cellphones. The key for me is knowing when to use it and when to leave it alone. You don't use it in heavy traffic without a very long following distance. The truth is, a very long following distance, whether using your phone or not, is one of the best ways to avoid collisions of any sort. It also saves on the cost of replacing brakes. I will replace the brakes on my wife's car 2-3 times before I'll replace the brakes on my far heavier truck. Then again, my average following distance is at least 2-3 times the distance of hers. Also, never use your phone while cornering. That's a recipe for disaster for most of us. Most of the time when I see people using their phones while driving, these basic precautions aren't being followed. They won't increase their following distance to compensate for reaction times, or they continue using their phones while cornering. Common sense can really go a long way toward making you safer while driving. Is it perfect? No, but then nothing really ever is. Many of these people I observe are also not wearing seat belts, compounding the already dangerous act of moving at a high rate of speed. I'm sure Thomas Paine would agree that common sense isn't as common as it used to be.

BillyM67 says:

Your reasoning is extremely flawe, and your "very long following distance" causes traffic to back up. Also, admitting to doing something ignorant doesn't somehow make it right, it just makes you sound like the selfish idiot you are. Put the phone down and pull your head out of your butt.

ScottJ says:

I guess the best the rest of us can hope for is that your irresponsible driving habits cause you to be "taken out of the game" in a way that doesn't hurt others, if you catch my drift.

ads says:

I am not a much PC person at all.
Here's the deal, there are MAYBE ... pick a number, 1:100,000 people who can talk on the phone and not be a danger. Some brains are wired differently. The ability to do this would be an abnormality, nothing to do with dexterity or intelligence; a brain different than most.
The problem is, everyone, like you, think you're that guy. You're not. The proof is in your own words, "don't do it in the corners". This proves you know your own brain can't consistently,adequately, navigate a turn while talking. Then you add the error in your logic that going straight doesn't have other, LESS OBVIOUS than a turn, occurrences that require a response you're even more likely to miss. You can see the turn ahead of time, you will NOT notice you're car drifting until it's significant. You can add distance and rationalize all you want, and you may never have an accident, just like some alcoholics never have one, but don't fool yourself with this rationalization.
I can nearly always tell - absent of noise - just in speech pattern, if someone is driving when they call me. The abnormal pauses, difficulty in answering a question, etc.

The biggest problem with google glass is...

Andrew Roach says:

If I got out of my car after getting in a wreck, and the other guy was wearing Glass: I'd have to punch his lights out on the spot.