As the whizzes at Google work feverishly to blur the line between sci-fi fantasy and real-world computing yet again, the online community is buzzing with optimism, speculation, and even a little dread. Everyone seems to have an opinion on whether Google Glass will simplify modern life or serve as another distraction for a generation of tech junkies more likely to tweet than talk face to face. Here at Esurance, opinions are equally split on how this new technology will play out, and even more so with how driving with Glass might impact the safety and sanity of our roads.
As our very own Steven Mautone (Esurance’s web production manager) eagerly awaits his beta version of Google Glass, conversation around the office swirls with lively debate regarding potential possibilities … and potentially deadly pitfalls.
Driving with Glass: the possibilities
If you’ve ever driven down the road while frantically typing an address into your phone before you get to the next exit (and I’m not saying I have), then you can imagine how much easier it could be to simply say, “Ok, Glass, how do I get to Tommy’s Joynt?” And what if, instead of balancing your phone on your knee and glancing down every 3 seconds to make sure you haven’t missed Geary Street, you could just look up and to the right to ensure you’re still on the right track?
With its hands-free access and ease of use, it’s easy to see how Google Glass might eliminate some of the distraction and stress that often come with trying to find your way around.
A built-in driving buddy
Now imagine if Google Glass could tell you if you’re speeding, remind you to get gas, coach you through changing a tire, or help you to know what to do after an accident. Imagine knowing about traffic jams before you were stuck bumper to bumper. Or having constant updates about how far it is to the next gas station, rest stop, or hotel.
Could Google Glass help you find nearby amenities, let you know road conditions, warn you about accidents, or help you find the best BBQ shack in Tennessee? At this point, who knows. But if it could, it would pretty much be the best driving buddy ever. And you wouldn’t even have to share the beef jerky.
Driving with Glass: the potential pitfalls
Even more distractions
Of course, with all this possibility comes the very real concern that drivers might become even more distracted as they download and process a constant stream of information. As we know from a previous post, manual distraction isn’t the only type of distraction to be concerned about. Cognitive distraction — what we do with our minds — can also play a big part in how focused we are (or aren’t) on the road.
Texting and talking on the phone while driving are considered dangerous and illegal in most states. But people still do them with surprising frequency. It seems our inherently busy lives often overcome our common sense and the need for safety. And while Google Glass eliminates the need for keypads and fumbling around, it seems likely that the increased capability, coupled with the fact that it’s hands free, will only encourage an increased sense of being able to do more while driving.
Even more attempted multi-tasking
With drivers in some of America’s most bustling cities spending upwards of 40 hours a year sitting in traffic, it’s easy to imagine the temptation to spend part of this time trying to get something done. How many times have you seen someone on their laptop or tablet tapping out a quick email while they inch along the highway during their morning commute?
If all it took was a glance up and to the right to find out if a client sent over that contract or if your boss got back to you regarding today’s meeting, would you be able to resist trying to start the work day from the road?
Furthermore, would Google Glass make it easier than ever for people to update on Facebook (“Stuck in traffic, again!!”), check in at the office, or catch up on email in their cars? Would you want to check out your finances before you got to that gas station 17 miles ahead on the left? Or see pictures of the hotel before you arrive to check in?
The jury’s still out on driving with Glass
While we wait for Google Glass to hit the market, we still have more questions than answers. As a modern company, we’re as excited as the rest of the world to see what possibilities this new technology may hold. But as an insurance company, we can’t help but share in some of the concern over what this might mean for driver safety.
Stay tuned for more on the subject as Steven Mautone tests out Google Glass and shares his experiences working, living, and yes, driving with Glass. In the meantime, let us know where you stand. Will Google Glass be a driver’s best friend … or more distracting than anything we’ve seen so far?
Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter #DrivingWithGlass.