One week after Google Glass hit the U.S. market, lawmakers in Illinois are considering efforts to combat what some warn is the next wave of distracted driving.
Creators of the $1,500 wearable computer say it is designed to make driving safer by assisting with navigation, monitoring speed and alerting users when they appear too tired to drive. But Illinois legislators have introduced a bill that would ban the use of Google Glass on the road, describing the technology as a potentially deadly disruption.
Google is spending big to sway lawmakers about the usability of the device, which remains in beta mode though it is now available to the general public.
Representatives from the company visited the Illinois General Assembly this week to give demos of the headsets, which are equipped with mini computers that can make calls, take photos, search online or access apps.
State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D), who sponsored the bill, told the Chicago Tribune that he had received a letter from Google that said “they were willing to work with us on this.”
Google has deployed lobbyists to Wyoming, Delaware, Illinois and Missouri to speak with legislators about the device. Once a weak player in the lobbying world, Google is now the second-largest corporate spender, with $15.8 million spent last year.
At least eight states, including New Jersey and West Virginia, are considering restrictions on Glass while driving, according to a Reuters report.
“You can be watching cat videos driving down the road and laughing at them,” West Virginia Del. Gary Howell (R) told Bloomberg News in February after he proposed a ban. “When you’re rolling down the road in a ton-and-a-half of metal at 65 miles per hour, you can do some serious damage.”
But Google is stepping up its effort to market Glass as a helpful – not distracting – device.
“We find that when people have first-hand experience using Glass over several days, many feel less, not more distracted by technology,” a recent statement from Google reads.