Waymo has sued the California Department of Motor Vehicles. In a case first reported by The Los Angeles Times, the Alphabet subsidiary filed a complaint with the Sacramento County Superior Court on January 21st to prevent the agency from disclosing what it believes to be trade secrets.
At the center of the lawsuit is a public records request an unidentified party made to obtain Waymo’s driverless deployment application. Before sharing the requested documents, the DMV allowed the company to redact any sections it believed would reveal its trade secrets, including questions that were asked by the agency. When the DMV eventually forwarded the package to the requester, that individual or group challenged the redactions. The agency then contacted Waymo and invited the company to sue it to resolve the matter.
Some of the information Waymo wants to prevent from entering the public domain include details on how it plans to handle emergencies involving its autonomous vehicles. Another redacted section details the abilities of its Driver software to handle San Francisco’s tricky one-way streets and hills. The company began offering taxi service to a limited number of customers in San Francisco in August. Those vehicles operate with a backup human driver.
The company contends it has publicly shared almost all of the information contained in its application with the DMV. According to Waymo, the redactions involve technical details that touch on how it achieves the safety performance it has detailed in other public venues. Waymo claims that information could give a competitor an edge on it. The suit's purpose here is to either forestall or completely prevent the disclosure of the requested information. As The Los Angeles Times notes, resolution for these types of cases can take years.
“Every autonomous vehicle company has an obligation to demonstrate the safety of its technology, which is why we’ve transparently and consistently shared data on our safety readiness with the public,” a spokesperson for Waymo told Engadget. “We will continue to work with the DMV to determine what is appropriate for us to share publicly and hope to find a resolution soon.”
The DMV declined to comment on the case, but said it's currently reviewing the complaint.