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Waymo wins bid to keep some of its Robotaxi safety details secret

Waymo wins bid to keep some of its Robotaxi safety details secret

Waymo is allowed to keep some of its autonomous vehicle safety data secret after it ruled in favor of the Alphabet company in a lawsuit filed against the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (via TechCrunch).

Last month, Waymo sued the DMV to block a public records request from an unidentified party seeking Waymo's application to operate driverless cars on public roads. The company argued that the information being sought was a trade secret and that being forced to disclose it would result in a competitive disadvantage to the company.

The case zeroes in on the ongoing tension within the AV industry between the desire to keep information confidential from rival companies and the need to earn the public's trust through transparency and openness. Waymo argues that it is earning the public's trust by publishing more safety data and driving practices than any other AV company in the industry.

In a statement, Waymo praised the court's decision, vowing to be transparent with the public. Nicholas Smith said, "We are pleased that the court made the right decision in granting Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction, which did not cover the disclosure of competitively sensitive trade secrets that Waymo submitted to the CA DMV. included in the submitted permit application." A company spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to openly share safety and other data on our autonomous driving technology and operations, while recognizing that the detailed technical information we share with regulators is not always appropriate to share with the public. . "

Waymo sued to hold private information about how it handles certain autonomous vehicle emergencies, such as when the vehicle's automatic driving system fails or when local regulations require the vehicle to be stopped. Waymo also didn't want to disclose how its vehicles react when they try to drive somewhere and how they handle steep hills or tight curves.

In the lawsuit, the company argues that releasing that information would enable its competitors to copy its processes without any of the costs associated with Waymo's years of research and development.

“If Waymo’s competitors had access to this highly valuable information, they would benefit from Waymo’s years of research and financial investments to improve their AV technology, products and services at Waymo’s expense – immediately, and for free." Samrat Ravindra Kansara, group product manager at Waymo, writes in the lawsuit.

California's DMV oversees the largest autonomous vehicle testing program in the country, allowing more than 60 companies to operate test vehicles on public roads. Those companies must submit detailed applications to obtain permits to test their vehicles and demonstrate their technical capabilities to state authorities.

Last year, an unidentified party submitted a public records request to the DMV for Waymo's application. The agency informed the company that it would issue an application without action unless Waymo sued the DMV to block its release – which Waymo did immediately. The DMV did not oppose Waymo's request for an injunction, and neither did any other third parties file a protest.

Waymo is currently testing hundreds of vehicles in downtown San Francisco and around Google's offices in Mountain View. Last year, the company hit the most miles of all the companies allowed to test in the state autonomously: 2.3 million miles, a massive increase with a range of 628,838 miles in 2020, and even more. That's the pre-pandemic year of 2019, with 1.45 million.

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