In October, Cecilia Abadie got a ticket for driving while wearing Google Glass. On Thursday, she went to court, fought the citation, and won, by arguing that it was not a visual distraction because none of its features were turned on. And the most anticipated tech-related traffic court date was history.
Commissioner John Blair threw out both charges, stating there wasn't enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Google Glass was turned on at the time. It is only illegal to wear the device while driving if it is operational.
The law CNN and Blair are referring to is "V C Section 27602", a California law which makes it illegal to drive while some kind of monitor (including, in theory, Google Glass) "is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle." More simply: drivers can't look at a screen while behind the wheel.
Google Glass, of course, has a monitor that sits over the wearer's right eye and would be impossible not to look at. But if Glass isn't on, then it's just as distracting as wearing sunglasses (not very) and probably less distracting than, say, changing the radio station or fiddling with the GPS.
The problem for law enforcement, as ably demonstrated by Cecilia Abadie, is that it's impossible to prove (or disprove) that the Google Glass was ever on. Unlike a big tablet or TV screen, only the wearer can see the screen. So if a cop pulls you over, all you have to do is say it was off. Unless you were sending a text or snapping a timestamped picture, there will be no evidence that you're a lying liar. Case closed.
There is no consensus on the legal status of Google Glass, as state laws regarding mobile devices while driving vary and there still only a couple thousand of them in existence. A few states are trying to ban driving with Google Glass. And Google itself even states on its Glass FAQ: "Read up and follow the law! Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road."
Abadie has now become the Peyton Manning (or Tom Brady, depending on who your current hero is) of Google Glass explorers. Many people are cheering her victory (many Google Glass explorers were also very upset when she got her ticket). And she says she's relishing her victory and reading all the press ... while her sister drives.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.