Driving with Google Glass ruled legal by California judge, you just can’t use it [UPDATE: VIDEO]



A judge in the State of California has dismissed a citation for California woman ticketed for driving while wearing Google Glass. This story is developing and will be updated with details as they emerge.

Press conference video

We were live at the court where Cecilia Abadie came out victorious against the state of California! She held a press conference right after she “walked free” and we got it all on video for you! Check out the video to see what her opinions on the matter are.

In October of 2013, Cecilia Abadie became the first person to receive a traffic ticket for driving while wearing Google Glass. Initially pulled over for speeding, the California Highway Patrol Officer issuing the ticket tacked on an additional charge for “Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass)“, sparking a worldwide debate on the safety and legality of driving while using and/or wearing Google Glass. In this case, the distinction between the two is important.

The officer relentlessly questioned Abadie on her reason for driving with Glass and insisted that it blocked her view and created a distraction. But did it?

Abadie (represented by San Diego Traffic Attorney William Concidine) argued that her Google Glass was not in use at the time of the speeding offense and she was therefore not in violation of any law, a claim that seems almost impossible to refute given the circumstances.

The judge sided with Abadie, noting there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the Glass display was active while she was driving.

According to Commissioner John Blair of the San Diego County Superior Court who heard the case, wearing Google Glass while driving is perfectly legal in California, supposing it’s turned off and/or not in use as in this case.

Would it have been legal for Cecilia to use Glass in any way, shape, or form while driving? How much further can you push the envelope – beyond wearing them while turned off – before you’re breaking the law? To answer that question, we’ll probably need someone else to “break the law”, forcing further decisions to be made. For now, it was made clear that Abadie would have been found guilty if she was actively using and interacting with the illuminated display on Google Glass.


Keep in mind Google built Glass with features like turn-by-turn driving directions that make it very obvious in-vehicle use were and are intended. (Update: Though official statements by Google warn users to obey local laws and act safely/responsibly, Google never outright suggests driving directions be used by drivers and it’s possible this feature is intended for use by passengers.)

What it’s like: Driving with Google Glass

Wondering what it’s like to drive around while wearing Google Glass? If you’re wearing but not actively using Glass, you’ll see nothing. On the other hand, here’s an example of using Google Maps with Glass.

The above simulated example of driving with Google Glass is part of our full Google Glass Review. From turned off to heavy use, Google Glass use while driving may or may not violate the California law in question depending on how it’s interpreted. And in the court of law interpretations mean everything, potentially setting precedent that sets the long-term dividing line between right and wrong.

Ms. Abadie’s situation falls to one extreme – she was wearing Glass but it wasn’t in use – but the spectrum of possible use cases is wide open. New technology, posing new questions, with new gray areas.

Where should we draw the line?

I haven’t heard anyone lobbying to legalize watching videos on YouTube while operating a vehicle and wearing Google Glass- obviously lines should exist. People can choose to break laws and cross lines (ex: texting while driving), but does that mean we should categorically ban using the technology even when done in a responsible manner that respects safety and promotes innovation?

The line Abadie allegedly crossed is listed on the ticket (and California DMV website) as “V C Section 27602 Television“. Gray area galore: is Google Glass simply a “display” with “entertainment” capabilities that violates this article or is it exempt due to “article b” categorizing it as a mapping display or supplemental enhancement? Or does it qualify as both, and if so, on what side of the law does that land Google Glass?

Right now we simply know that the State of California will allow you to drive while wearing Google Glass, provided the display is turned off. But given the outrageous complexity of automotive controls and entertainment these days and the equally distracting lack such technology (read below), it’s hard to imagine a world where Google Glass is considered a distraction compared to the alternatives.

Consider that while Cecilia Abade was initially issued a ticket for breaking the law, at the same exact time you could have walked into a car dealership, bought a brand new car with nearly identical technology built-into the windshield, and legally driven it through any state in the USA. Have fun in your brand new Camaro ZL1:

Nevertheless, lawmakers in several US states including Delaware, West Virginia, and Maryland have made serious efforts to ban Google Glass. Meanwhile, check out the chops on the brand new Tesla Model S, complete with a internet connected 17-inch touchscreen on the middle console that is sure to have every driver laser focused on the road like an Aderall-popping college student during final exams.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 6.08.04 PM

Note the sarcasm.

For comparisons sake, here is the semi-transparent display you can optionally  see when looking through Google Glass:

If head mounted displays are considered a safety concern, printing directions from Mapquest should be illegal and anyone using paper maps should be issued life sentences. Have you ever seen someone following scribbled down directions or trying to reroute to avoid traffic with a paper map? It’s madness… and the inconsistency of lawmakers is laughable.

You can put this day in the record books but make no mistake: this is just the very beginning of a long and winding road that will play out across decades, not days.

Outrage Against Google “Glassholes”

It wasn’t long after Google Glass launched (read our full Google Glass Review) that public sentiment became sharply divided. On the one side people were irritated, dismissive, concerned about privacy, and outraged that such a stupid looking and pointless technology would be introduced and embraced.

Just as using your smartphone in social settings and public places can stick out like an inappropriately sore thumb, so can using Google Glass. But while Smartphones are status quo, many perceive Google Glass as the rarest of nerd geekery (or is it geek nerdery?), and the social acceptability of using Google Glass at all was soon brought into question.

It suddenly became cool to diss Google Glass, officially entering mainstream humiliation mode after appearing as the topic of a Saturday Night Live skit and a Daily Show segment.

Mashable put out a hilarious video depicting the worst of this social behavior in a video about “Glassholes” and unfortunately the name stuck.

Before long the uninformed masses were jumping on the ignorant mud flinging bandwagon. The technology was just born but would it even get a chance?

Google Glass: Exploring the Unexplored

It’s no coincidence that the first wave of Google Glass users, trying out a product still in beta, have been dubbed “Explorers”: they’re entering uncharted territory.

As a Google Glass Explorer myself I’ve consistently received feedback from strangers who can’t help but ask what I’m wearing. Some are breathtakingly excited to see them for the first time, “Oh my God is that Google Glass?!”

Some very curious, “What’s that on your face?”

Some have even been downright rude, making a point of approaching me to explain why I look stupid or how I’m contributing to the invasion of privacy and end of human civilization. But if you’re patient enough to explain it to people – both those who are optimistic and positive and those who are rude and negative, you almost always hear the same response when you let them give Glass a try: “Wow, that’s awesome!”

Whether smartglasses become mainstream remains to be seen, but innovation and fear are enemies. Google Glass will iterate, evolve, and be exciting to follow regardless of success or failure. But before you knock it, give it a try.

Court Case and Point

While those urging to ban Google Glass in the car claim a ban would be good for safety, there are others leveraging the exact same technology to save lives. Take for example DriveSafe, a recent App developed for Google Glass that alerts the driver with audio tones and physical vibrations if they’re dozing off while at the wheel.


Some scary and disturbing facts from recent polls by the National Sleep Foundation and Center for Disease Control:

  • 60% (168 million people) – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year
  • 37% (103 million people) – have actually fallen asleep at the wheel
  • 4% (11 million people) – admit they have had an accident or near accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.

How many millions aren’t around to explain that falling asleep at the wheel is the reason they died in a car accident?

Google Glass can be irresponsibly used and increase the risk of an accident, but it can also be used to save lives among other things. We’re much better off when technology is embraced and monitored rather than feared and outlawed. At least that’s my belief.

You’d better get used to it because with the announcement of the Open Automotive Alliance, we will be seeing Google Glass, Android, and a whole lot of unknown future technological awesomeness coming to cars in the next few years. If you’re absolutely adamant that driving while using Google Glass is distracting and should be illegal, don’t worry… it won’t be long before cars are driving themselves.

Scratch that… they already exist.

UPDATE #1: Cecilia speaks to press outside the court house following her favorable decision. Video coming soon.


UPDATE #2: it’s official… Abedie publishes the “not guilty” proof on her Google+ profile.

UPDATE #3: exclusive video coverage of the courtroom aftermath posted at the top of this article!

UPDATE #4: Abedia publishes first person POV video of the press conference, recorded with Google Glass

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

Sony Xperia T, TX, V and SP scheduled to receive Android 4.3 later this month (or early Feb)

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  1. No more distracting than changing your radio station, fiddling with your windshield mounted tom tom, looking for that cigarette you just dropped in your lap, or interacting with people in your car. I would love to find ONE person that drives with people in the car (or without) in complete silence, focused on the road like a sentry at the gate. I don’t think it exist. Glass will be better the other display devices, because Unlike looking at the road then at your Garmin, your focus doesn’t change. going back and forth from near to far really puts strain on the eyes

    1. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?

  2. yay maryland pride.

    1. Not like they enforce even the hands free laws here so I would not be too worried.

  3. The “What it’s like: Driving with Google Glass” video is completely wrong. It shows as if you’re driving with glass in your direct field of vision, but it’s not it’s totally out of the way. People don’t realize until they have worn it. Sure someone could drive with it in the wrong position but you know what they say, you can’t fix stupid! Glass will end up being legal because lots of folks will realize it’s usefulness especially once the battery life improves, and applications are developed. I can only imagine the uses that will be developed for law enforcement, fire fighters, military and others.

    1. This is a great point, Charlie, and probably one I didn’t make clear enough.

      The “What it’s like” is meant as a simulation of sorts, overlaying a screencast of the navigation onto the video. I also showed a what it’s like to look through glass video in an attempt to clarify.

  4. Bravo Rob you just made a very enumerating point as to why people such as yourself should not be allowed to use Google Glass in a car.
    There are already alarms in cars that detect whether you have fallen asleep, and sound off very loudly, so no need for Google Glass. You seem to think Google Glass is the end all beat all, you are so far from wrong it is quite hilarious.
    You have to remember you have to get people to buy those tech cars, and it is looking like more and more people are becoming turncoat on technology.
    SO again things we don’t need or really want are going to be crammed down our throats, add thousands to the price of products and privacy thrown to the wind just so Rob and others can enjoy their technology they love, thanks Hitler.
    Oh and HUDs are not capable of video content, text messaging, emails or such.

    1. I didn’t say and don’t think Google Glass is an “end all bea(t) all”. I think it’s an interesting and innovative product that some people love and those people shouldn’t be prevented from using Glass when competing products ranging from paper maps to 17-inch touchscreen dashes in new Teslas are far more distracting.

      Saying “there are already alarms in cars” that do XYZ is pretty funny. There were also vehicles with 4 wheels in 1930s but that didn’t stop people from innovating.

      I’m not trying to get people to buy anything… I’m trying to illustrate that this “fear of the unknown” in legislation is scatterbrained, silly, and contradictory. It’s good that Cecilia won, but the judge didn’t go far enough.

      1. Yes, it’s a good thing that roads are more dangerous now >>.>. Moron.

        1. Statistically the roads are much LESS dangerous and you can thank technology for most of the safety improvements. But hey, what’s the point in all these technological advancements like seatbelts, airbags, navgation units, etc… technology is so evil! They make the roads so dangerous! Long live horse and buggies!

    2. You fail at reading comprehension

    3. “…you are so far from wrong it is quite hilarious”

      Sooo, you’re saying he’s right?

    4. My 1997 Hyundai Sonata does not have this “sleep feature” you speak of. Thankfully, I have Google Glass. O_o

    5. HUDs can read text messages and tell you who’s calling. Cars with Bluetooth enabled that connect to you phone

    6. Yes, every car being sold today has sleep alarms and HUD displays with Navi….
      oh wait, they don’t.

    7. Can you tell me where that alarm is in my ’01 Jetta? I can’t seem to locate it.

  5. “Keep in mind Google built Glass with features like turn-by-turn driving directions that make it very obvious in-vehicle use were and are intended.” Do you mean while driving? If so has google stated they designed this specifically to be used while driving? A passenger CAN VERY EASILY wear this for that.

    1. You make a good point about the passenger. Google has basically just said you should abide by your local laws and be safe. Updating to reflect this point, thanks again.

  6. 60% (168 million people) – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year
    37% (103 million people) – have actually fallen asleep at the wheel
    4% (11 million people)

    What exactly has that 4% done?

    1. Thanks for catching that… 4% admit they have had an accident or near accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.

  7. Oh hell yeah.

  8. So wearing glass even though you ARE CLEARLY too tired ( impaired) to drive is the answer? That is LAUGHABLE!

    1. A lot of people drive while feeling drowsy. According to statistics, about 60% of people have driven while feeling sleepy. I’m sure you have at one point or another. Nobody is saying driving with Glass is the answer, clearly it isn’t. But it could help.

  9. Oh God,

    Whats this?

    60% – *******
    37% – ******
    4% – ******

    60+37+4= 101%!!!

    1. You know you don’t add the three right

    2. Rounding.

    3. “Mutually exclusive”. Look it up. Learn it. Reread the stats in the article.

      These three stats are independent of each other and happen to add up to almost 100% but that’s coincidental. One person can be in two categories… which is why James Macy says you don’t add the three lines.

  10. I don’t think people take distracted driving laws seriously enough. Rights to wear silly technical devices are more important than not beelining towards oncoming traffic, or swerving around the road. I think the tech is great and could be helpful in navagation, but there isn’t a shortage of nav devices.. hell your phones all do it (I presume if you come to this website, you aren’t surfing on your garbo flip phone). A Glass-based Nav would be less of a distraction and I think it has very good, safe uses even while driving, but it’s an easy way to mask that YouTube video you’re watching on the way to work too.

    Every day on my commute to work I see some jerk yapping away on his non-hands free cell phone, or texting or what have you. On occasion (thankfully rare), you can really tell by their driving. It’d be doing the world a great service to limit distractions all we can.

    This lady said she wasn’t using Glass at the time because it’s impossible to prove she wasn’t. So for me, I wouldn’t hate it if these were prevented by distracted driving laws because you can’t differentiate between someone having a HUD for nav instructions (Which I don’t think would be a distraction) and someone with an eyeball full of YouTube going (which would be a tremendous distraction).

    The only way I could see Glass working for drivers is if it somehow prevented features from working while you’re driving. Hard for something like that to be done though, I’m sure.

    1. I’ve used Google Glass. It’s no different from having a gps mounted to your dash.

      Yes, I guess I could have watched a movie instead of using gps. But I didn’t, and therefore broke no laws.

      Believe it or not, we don’t need laws to dictate every behavior we may or may not engage in.

      1. If that were true no one would drive distracted ever or with laptops on the dash, etc. It isn’t the norm (the laptop), but it happens.

      2. Your arguments are pathetic.

    2. Not every one is a D-dag on the road, nor do they need high tech devices to be idiots if they are…Though from your article you seam to be harboring some feelings of guilt and anger toward your fellow man and woman….I guess you have a lot of personal experience in these matters…Remember your own comment here when going through the Dunkin ‘in Doughnuts drive- through for a large coffee for the road…


  12. This article makes a lot of assumptions. Driving while wearing glass is not deemed legal just because one judge dismissed one case. Suggesting that shows you don’t understand how the legal system works. Next week a judge can burn someone if he feels they were watching while driving. What you can expect from California is new laws that give judges ability to hold you accountable just for wearing googleglass while driving. Not saying I want that, but you know how California loves to make new laws.

  13. I hope we make it to a day and age when people can responsibly use tech so we don’t need laws to dictate use.

    I really want to test drive the Chevy and I dislike Mashable now.

  14. Sir, in my defense, Phandroid told me to…
    “To answer that question, we’ll probably need someone else to “break the law”, forcing further decisions to be made.”


    (a good friend, with good manners will hold the wheel for the driver so that the driver can focus on what is important without being distracted.)

  16. I’d much rather had someone using Glass than dinking around on their smartphone…. Just sayin’.

    1. Google Glass stil takes up a rather large part of your view and you wil also lose focus on the background (the street your driving on).

      In the Netherlands the law is very basic about this.

      It doesnt matter if your using your phone to talk to someone or if you are texting it is simply forbidden to hold a phone in your hand while driving, if a cop sees you driving while holding a phone he can fine you, he doesnt have to prove that you where texting or talking to someone.
      So im pretty sure over here it will be illegal to drive while using Google Glass.
      Yes it can be used for good (small HUD showing your speed etc) but it can also be used for other things that wil distract you from driving.

      1. I’ve worn Glass once. It’s no more space than a GPS on your dashboard. (Or very close anyway) It’s also transparent, unlike the GPS. It also has the advantage of being easy to move out of the way, unlike that GPS. Those suction cups are pretty well built these days.

        And my older GPS was Windows CE, which I hacked, so could be used for just as naughty things, if I were an idiot. I’m not THAT much of an idiot at least. :D

    2. I’d rather none of it happen when people drive, and they FOCUSED ON DRIVING! Imagine that.

  17. “The judge sided with Abadie, noting there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the Glass display was active while she was driving.

    According to Commissioner John Blair of the San Diego County Superior Court who heard the case, wearing Google Glass while driving is perfectly legal in California, supposing it’s turned off and/or not in use as in this case.”

    Ha! Vindication.

    To all the wonderful folks who argued with me in the thread for the article on this site about her getting ticketed:

    Suck iiiiit.

    You know that’s right.

    1. Just because CHP and local police have to prove it’s turned on doesn’t make you or her any less of a dbag. So yeah … whatever jerkboy.

      1. I think its time for you to return to Amish country… This way you won’t be confused by the strange ways of the English…

    2. I guess you want to completely ignore this part:

      “supposing it’s turned off and/or not in use as in this case.”.

      I don’t think that you have ANY GROUNDS to be telling people to, “Suck iiiiit”.

      1. His claims (in the original thread – first link in current article) were mainly that the officer didn’t have the right to pull her over due to wearing Glass.
        Of course, he didn’t; she appears to have been pulled over for speeding, but that didn’t stop anyone from arguing that just wearing Glass was enough.

        Apparently the judge disagrees with it alone being enough, but that’s today and just one judge. Tomorrow (figuratively), there will be new laws and new judges.

        Any “vindication” on his part is likely fleeting at best.

        I may be swayed by the “Psych” references though.

  18. @Rob Jackson .. you should add this to your list.

    Heads up display full face helmet.


  19. “Mapquest should be illegal and anyone using paper maps should be issued life sentences” If you LET ANYTHING distract you an officer CAN give you a ticket!

  20. +1 for the technology. I also believe that HUD and glass are almost the same thing.

  21. I am STUNNED that there LOT’S OF PEOPLE on this forum who are in complete denial about distractions while driving.

  22. This should be banned/illegal, along with using phones. I hope this does not catch on anytime soon in other states with a bunch of idiots using google glass as they drive. We already have enough with people texting and driving as well as drunk drivers and now with weed becoming legal, we don’t need yet another things to distract or disorient drivers from focusing on what they should be…the road.

    1. Do you listen to radio when you drive? As for your argument even changing radio station or cd track while driving is being an idiot.

      1. yes because something obstructing my view as I drive and my changing a station at at a stoplight or stop sign is the same thing…

        Even more so, while it is dangerous to take your eyes off the road to change a radio station, it still is not the same thing as wearing this dumb mess while driving. That argument does not work here.

        1. First let me say my point of view about drivers in general. It’s the drivers who are “dumb” not the gadgets. People whose IQ is lower than 90 shouldn’t be able to get licences. That will solve many problems.

          Now to the glass. Something “dumb” for you doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. Besides you are making an argument thinking that it is always and obstructing your view. I believe that it is less distracting than many things that are legal in the cars right now such as gps (integrated or not integrated). It is less obstructive than many things people put on their cars and dashboards such as flowers, flags, shiny beads etc. If you are arguing that they all should be banned (including car radios, which let you control them while car is moving) I can see your point. or else it’s being a hypocrite to claim one thing is worse than others without real data.

          Now the other side of the argument is that such technology may actually be helpful. The wake-up example above is just one of them. It can watch the road and warn you when you drive to other lanes without checking the mirrors. Too many people do that.

    2. Of course, some idiot pulls out the weed card.

      1. Yes I am an idiot for having an opinion different from yours. Get over yourself.

  23. “you just can’t use it”

    So are we going on an honor system? lol. How is this even enforceable?

  24. Its a police state cop-out. Since when do Law Enforcement have special constitutional exemptions. We all know Police use their radios, access vehicle, and personal information from their mobile PD/RMV Data terminals in their cruisers, or other electronic devices..Including their own personal smart phones…Or was it the police was engaged in misconduct, and wanted to squelch her 1st amendment rights to a device that also records video, and pictures…Please direct your attention to the 1st parts of the 14th amendment… Come to think of try the whole Bill of Rights..

  25. People of course are dumb and DEFEND the use of these things while driving.

  26. Wrong ticket! They should have ticketed her for her ugly leather skin and George Washington wooden teeth

  27. Ticket her for not washing her hair before going to court YA DAM DIRTBOMB!

  28. Dammmm watta big buttt she must be espanol lotsa chiken and rice to make dat fatazz! Werd is born

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