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Texting while driving isn't good even when you're using Google Glass, as a new University of Central Florida studydemonstrates. There was one twist though -- the researchers found that texting Glass users outperformed smartphone users when regaining control of their vehicles after a traffic incident.

“Texting with either a smartphone or Glass will cause distraction and should be avoided while driving” said UCF researcher Ben Sawyer. “Glass did help drivers in our study recover more quickly than those texting on a smartphone. We hope that Glass points the way to technology that can help deliver information with minimal risk.”

The study, conducted in cooperation with the Air Force Research Laboratory, is the first scientific look at using Google Glass to text while driving.

Distracted drivers are a menace on the road, and according to the National Safety Council cell-phone use leads to at least 1.6 million crashes each year. With the emergence of Glass and competitors, several states are considering banning drivers from wearing those technologies.

“As distractive influences threaten to become more common and numerous in drivers’ lives, we find the limited benefits provided by Glass a hopeful sign of technological solutions to come,” Sawyer added.

The study

Sawyer and his team set up the experiment with 40 twentysomethings. Each drove in a car simulator with either Glass or a smartphone and was forced to react to a vehicle ahead slamming on its brakes.

Researchers compared text-messaging participants’ reactions on each device to times when they were just driving without multitasking. Those using Glass were no better at hitting their brakes in time, but after their close call returned to driving normally more quickly.

“While Glass-using drivers demonstrated some areas of improved performance in recovering from the brake event, the device did not improve their response to the event itself,” Sawyer said. “More importantly, for every measure we recorded, messaging with either device negatively impacted driving performance. Compared to those just driving, multitaskers reacted more slowly, preserved less headway during the brake event, and subsequently adopted greater following distances.”

While Glass gives drivers the option of using head movements and voice commands to view and respond to text messages, avoiding clumsy thumbs, texting with the technology still causes distraction.

Bottom line: don’t trade your smartphone in for Google Glass because you think it will make texting safer behind the wheel. It won’t, at least not for now.


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