Driverless car company Waymo sues California DMV to keep robotaxi safety details secret

Alphabet’s autonomous driving company to block driverless crash data

Alphabet’s Waymo sued California DMV to not reveal the driverless crash data from being in public records. It argues that the data is a trade secret and shouldn’t be revealed. California’s DMV oversees various autonomous testing programs from over 60 companies.

Driverless car company Waymo sues California DMV to keep robotaxi safety details secret
Image credits- KTLA

Only a handful of companies are allowed to operate with full autonomous features on roads by California DMV. Among which much fewer vehicles are allowed to operate commercially and charge their customers to use the services. Waymo is seeking to keep private information about how it handles certain autonomous vehicle emergencies, how it responds when its vehicles attempt to drive somewhere they are not intended to go, and how they handle steep hills or tight curves. Waymo’s vehicles are currently under operation in San Fransisco, where the vehicles are operated without any driver.

Waymo sues California DMV stating concerns that it would be a competitive disadvantage for the company. Stated that Making public the process by which Waymo analyzes crashes “could provide strategic insight to Waymo’s competitors and third parties regarding Waymo’s assessment of those collisions from a variety of different perspectives, including potential technological remediation.”

Competitive disadvantage

Waymo says that it would be a competitive disadvantage as they have invested in acquiring the data over years with resources. If the data were to be released to the public, it could have a chilling effect on the autonomous driving market. Waymo claims, “Potential market participants interested in deploying autonomous vehicles in California will be dissuaded from investing valuable time and resources developing this technology if there is a demonstrated track record of their trade secrets being released,”

The suit starts as a public record request was sent to DMV from an unidentified party seeking Waymo’s application for a permit to operate driverless cars on public roads. Before complying with the request, the DMV allowed Waymo to redact certain details. The individual asking for the information challenged the redactions, and the DMV advised Waymo to seek an injunction through a lawsuit if it wanted to block that challenge.

A spokesperson for Waymo, Nicholas Smith said in a statement, “Every autonomous vehicle company has an obligation to demonstrate the safety of its technology, which is why we’ve transparently and consistently shared data on our safety readiness with the public. We will continue to work with the DMV to determine what is appropriate for us to share publicly and hope to find a resolution soon.”

Regardless, every year companies operating autonomous vehicles in California need to submit data to the DMV. They will be listing the number of miles driven and the frequency at which human safety drivers were forced to take control of their autonomous vehicles (also known as a “disengagement”).