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A California court has ruled that Waymo can keep certain details about its autonomous driving tech secret.
The autonomous driving sub-brand of Google’s parent company Alphabet, filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) last month in order to keep some details secret.
Specifically, Waymo wanted to keep information about its autonomous vehicle deployment permit, as well as emails between the DMV and the company, secret and off the public record.
Waymo argued that being forced to reveal trade secrets would undermine its investments into autonomous driving and would be bad for the industry as a whole.
“We’re pleased that the court reached the right decision in granting Waymo’s request for a preliminary injunction, precluding the disclosure of competitively-sensitive trade secrets that Waymo had included in the permit application it submitted to the CA DMV,” a Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch.
“We will continue to openly share safety and other data on our autonomous driving technology and operations, while recognizing that detailed technical information we share with regulators is not always appropriate for sharing with the public.”
Waymo, of course, had to submit information to the DMV about its autonomous driving technology before it could begin operations in San Francisco. The DMV, however, wanted to probe a bit further into the technology before granting the permit.
However, the DMV received public records requests for Waymo’s permit application and the agency gave Waymo the chance to censor any sections it felt might reveal trade secrets. Waymo did so and the DMV sent the redacted documents to the requester.
The requester then challenged the redactions and, according to Waymo, the DMV told the Alphabet subsidiary to file a temporary restraining order against itself, in order to not get stuck in the middle.
Waymo then took the matter to court, before a judge decided that it could, indeed, keep its redactions secret.
“These R&D efforts take many years and an enormous financial investment,” reads Waymo’s declaration shared with the court.
“Waymo’s AV development began as part of Google in 2009 before Waymo became its own company in 2016; therefore, Waymo’s AVs have been in development for more than 12 years. Waymo has invested truly significant amounts researching and developing its AV products.”
Of course, it’s impossible to determine whether the redacted information actually contained any trade secrets at all. However, if the DMV was happy with the redactions, it seems likely that they were, in fact, protecting trade secrets.
However, this entire matter does raise the question of whether the tech that will feature on our roads should remain private at all – given the number of lives that could potentially depend upon it. Just because Waymo has invested a lot of money into the tech, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should remain confidential.