Waymo has sued California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to stop autonomous car crash data as well as other data from becoming public. The argument is that the data is a trade secret. TechCrunch noted that Waymo sued because it wants to protect details about how its emergency backup system works, including internal processes for assessing and remediating the circumstances leading up to collisions — and also how it navigates through certain conditions.
On Monday, a judge granted Waymo a temporary restraining order and gave the company 22 more days to keep its secrets. On February 22, 2022, there will be another hearing that will address the question as to whether or not the information should continue to be redacted from the public record.
Autonomous vehicle developers testing and deploying in California must receive a series of permits from the DMV. Applying for these permits requires companies to submit information about their safety practices, technology, and information. The DMV typically asks follow-up questions, Yahoo! News noted. In Waymo’s case, the DMV offered the company to censor sections that could possibly reveal trade secrets. Not only did Waymo do this, but it even censored certain questions that the DMV asked.
The DMV challenged the blackouts and told Waymo that it would have to release the information or seek an injunction that prohibits the disclosure of the data in unredacted form. And that’s how we got to this point. Waymo also said that the DMV advised it to file a temporary restraining order against the DMV — yes, against itself.
When the requester then challenged the blackouts, the DMV told Waymo it would have to release the information unless Waymo sought an injunction prohibiting the disclosure of the material in unredacted form. According to Waymo, the DMV advised the company to also file a temporary restraining order against the DMV.
The information that Waymo wants to keep private includes how it addresses disengagement and collision incidents. Revealing this information, the company noted, will cause damage to it and undermine its investments in automated driving technology. It will also have “a chilling effect across the industry.”
Waymo also argued that if the data was made public, it “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.”
In the TechCrunch article, Matthew Wansley, former general counsel of nuTonomy and a law professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law in New York, shared thoughts about the information that Waymo wants to protect. He said that it is possible that some of it isn’t widely known and could be economically valuable to competitors. But he doubts that all of the information would qualify as a trade secret.
However, he provided a solution to the problem. In a nutshell, it is that companies be required to file crash reports. He also brought up the weaknesses in California’s crash reporting system — if a safety driver was in control of the vehicle at the time of the crash, the company isn’t required to say whether or not the driver took over in the moments before the crash.
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