Court rules that Waymo can keep its robotaxi emergency protocols a secret

Waymo sued the DMV to prevent the release of information it deems to be trade secrets.


The California Superior Court in Sacramento has ruled in favor of Waymo, allowing the company to keep specific details about its autonomous vehicle technology a secret. Waymo won the case against the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which it sued back in January to prevent the agency from disclosing what it considers trade secrets that could give its competitors an edge. While the Alphabet company filed a lawsuit against the DMV, it was an unidentified party that made a public records request for its driverless technology that started it all.

The DMV gave Waymo the chance to redact information it deems to be trade secrets from its driverless deployment application before handing the copy over to the requester. However, the third party challenged the blacked out sections, and the DMV had advised Waymo to seek an injunction if it wants to prohibit the disclosure of the redacted materials.

The information Waymo wants to keep secret includes how it plans to handle emergencies, such as how it analyzes collisions involving its vehicles, and how its technology decides when to hand over control to a human driver. It also includes its software's ability to handle the one-way streets and hills of San Francisco, where the company offers a robotaxi service.

In its lawsuit (PDF), Waymo said allowing the release of its trade secrets will have a "chilling effect across the industry" and could dissuade other companies from investing time and money into developing autonomous vehicle technologies. As TechCrunch notes, though, it's unclear if all the information Waymo redacted truly are trade secrets that it needs to keep from competitors or if some are safety details that could answer concerns raised by the public.

In a statement, a Waymo spokeperson told TechCrunch:

"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."