The West Virginia Google Glass Trouble

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Bill HB 3057, proposed in the West Virginia legislature by 56-year-old Republican Gary G. Howell, would establish “the offense of operating a motor vehicle using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.” The bill apparently is aimed in part at Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Glass. The new age spectacles allow the wearer to get data on the surface of its glass screen. Call it a smartphone is disguise. Howell has never seen one. Nor does he know exactly how the device would work.

Section D (9) of the bill gets to the heart of the matter:

“Wearable computer with a head mounted display” means a computing device which is worn on the head and projects visual information into the field of vision of the wearer.

Howell appropriately wants to save people from themselves and the harm that they might do to others. He can count himself as a champion of safety, even if his advocacy challenges a product that does not exist commercially. For all he knows, Google Glass turns off distracting features when the user is behind the wheel of a car. If Google is inventive enough to build Glass, it is inventive enough to include that kind of feature.

Howell’s proposed fine for wearing a computing device on the head is much too small, given the mayhem the device could cause. People driving while wearing Google Glass could crash and cause injuries to cars and their occupants. But the price tag for a violation:

A person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a traffic offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall for a first offense be fined $100; for a second offense be fined $200; and for a third or subsequent offense be fined $300. No court costs or other fees shall be assessed for a violation of subsection (a) of this section

Not even jail time.