THE Government is considering a crackdown on the use of 'wearable technology' such as smartwatches and Google Glass in cars.
The Irish Independent has learned that the Department of Transport has begun consulting with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Siochana on the potential ban of wearable devices such as Google Glass – which is worn like a pair of conventional glasses – in vehicles.
The department said the technology could be a "safety hazard".
"The department is concerned that the use of this technology in its current form may have the potential to distract motorists and therefore could represent a safety hazard," a department spokesman said.
Wearable technology, which is tipped as a big growth area this year, consists of gadgets that are worn rather than held.
Examples include smartwatches such as Samsung's Galaxy Gear, cameras such as GoPro and fitness wristbands.
Apple is tipped to release a smart iWatch this year, while Google is expected to launch its Google Glass smart glasses this spring. The device will allow people to view texts, read emails and follow maps inside the lens of the glasses. However, it requires the user to look up to view content.
"We consider all such issues in terms of their impact on road safety," the spokesman added. "We are in the process of consulting with the RSA, the gardai and other key stake-holders on this issue in advance of a formal policy decision."
A spokesman for An Garda Siochana said that existing rules were unclear as to the exact position regarding wearable technology devices in vehicles.
"As many of these machines are hands-free devices, they wouldn't be banned outright as of now in the same way that a mobile phone in your hand would," said the spokesman.
"But there are rules in place governing dangerous driving and they might come into play. But for now, we're waiting on further specific guidance from bodies such as the Department of Transport."
Wearable technology is not limited to fitness bands, smartwatches and glasses. At this month's giant tech trade event, The Consumer Electronics Show, thousands of wearable technology products were on display, from smart socks and vibrating underwear to T-shirt heart-rate monitors.
In Britain, the government has flagged a similarly strict road safety approach to wearable technology devices, with a particular focus on smart glasses such as Google Glass.
"We are aware of the rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the police to ensure individuals do not use this technology while driving," said the British Department of Transport late last year.