Court says Waymo does not have to disclose trade secrets in public record requests

In an effort to keep details about its autonomous driving technology away from competitors, a California court has ruled Waymo does not have to disclose certain trade secrets in public records requests.

The issue arose after the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) received a public records request last year for Waymo’s permit application.

As part of the process, the DMV allowed Waymo to censor any parts of the application and related documents and emails that might reveal company secrets.

Waymo did just that, blocking out significant portions of the documents.

The requestor, an unnamed third party, took issue with the censoring. Not wanting to get caught in the middle, the DMV advised Waymo to file a temporary restraining order against themselves, which was granted in February 2, 2022.

This allowed Waymo to file a lawsuit, claiming they should be allowed to keep secret how they identify and navigate through certain conditions, how they determine the circumstances under which the AV will revert control to a human driver, when to provide support to an AV fleet, and how the company addresses disengagement incidents and collision incidents.

“These R&D efforts take many years and an enormous financial investment. 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,” the lawsuit stated (viaTechCrunch)

The California Superior Court agreed, ruling it can keep certain details about its technology secret.

Waymo applauded the ruling, saying they will continue to share information with the DMV, but that not all of it is appropriate to be shared publicly.

“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. 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,” a Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch. “

Waymo and Cruise apply to begin autonomous taxi service in San Francisco

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