After a California judge ruled in Waymo’s favour in a lawsuit filed against the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the Alphabet company is allowed to keep some of its autonomous vehicle security data secrets. (Street TechCrunch)
Waymo sued the DMV last month to block a public data request from an anonymous party asking for Waymo’s application for a permit to operate driverless vehicles on public roads. The firm maintained that the information sought was a trade secret and that being forced to provide it would place the corporation at a competitive disadvantage.
The picture focuses on a conflict that is emerging in the AV industry between the desire to keep data hidden from competitors and the need to earn the public’s trust through transparency and openness. Waymo claims that it has earned the public’s trust by providing more security information and driving methodology than any other AV company in the industry.
“The illustration focuses on a rigidity that is brewing in the audiovisual industry.”
Waymo hailed the courtroom’s decision in a news release while also promising to communicate openly with the general public. “We’re pleased that the court made the correct decision in granting Waymo’s request for a preliminary injunction, preventing the disclosure of competitively sensitive trade secrets that Waymo had included in the permit application it submitted to the California DMV,” said Nicholas Smith, a spokesperson for the company, in a press release.
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“While we recognise that precise technical information we share with regulators is not always appropriate for sharing with the public, we will continue to freely discuss safety and other statistics on our autonomous driving technology and operations.”
Waymo filed the case in order to keep private information regarding how it manages unavoidable autonomous vehicle situations, such as when the vehicle’s automated driving system fails or when local rules require the vehicle to come to a halt. Waymo didn’t have to reveal how its cars react when they try to go somewhere they aren’t supposed to go, or how they handle steep climbs or tight corners.
In the case, Waymo claims that disclosing the data will allow competitors to replicate its techniques without paying the prices associated with Waymo’s years of research and development.
“If Waymo’s competitors had access to this highly valuable information, they would obtain – immediately and for free – the benefit of Waymo’s years of research and financial investment to improve their own AV technology, products, and services at Waymo’s expense,” writes Samrat Ravindra Kansara, Waymo’s group product supervisor.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) controls the nation’s largest autonomous vehicle testing programme, with over 60 companies licenced to operate test vehicles on public roads. In order to receive a permit to inspect their vehicles, these businesses must submit circumstantial functions and expose their technical capabilities to condition officers.
An unidentified party submitted a public data request to the DMV for Waymo’s service last year. The firm informed the company that it may release the app without redactions unless Waymo sued the DMV to prevent its release, which Waymo quickly did. The DMV did not oppose Waymo’s request for an injunction, and a third party did not file a protest.
Waymo is now testing a large number autonomous vehicles in downtown San Francisco and in and around Google’s Mountain View offices. Last year, the company pushed the most miles autonomously of all the firms allowed to check in the state: 2.3 million miles, a massive increase over 2020’s 628,838 miles pushed and the pre-pandemic year of 2019, with 1.45 million miles pushed.