Wouldn’t you want to know what happened in those instances? Well, you can’t. At least, regarding Waymo.
On Tuesday, the California Superior Court in Sacramento ruled that Alphabet’s Waymo can keep crucial safety and crash data about its autonomous vehicles secret.
What’s the story?
In January, Waymo sued the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to prevent the agency from disclosing what it considers “trade secrets.”
According to the lawsuit, in October 2021, the DMV notified Waymo that an anonymous third party requested to view the company’s application for its autonomous vehicle deployment permit, along with email correspondence between Waymo and DMV.
Waymo provided the DMV with redacted versions of the requested documents, to protect the company’s “proprietary and trade secret information.”
But this wasn’t enough for the unnamed requester, who challenged the redactions of the original.
The DMV then advised the company to resolve the situation by suing… the DMV. And Waymo… won.
What’s this super-secret information about?
Well, only crucial safety and crash data — nothing too important.
Specifically, the company doesn’t want to disclose information about:
- Analyses and technical assessments of collisions.
- Internal processes for “assessing, and if necessary, remediating the circumstances that were deemed to have led to certain collisions.”
- How and when Waymo’s vehicles will transition control to safety drivers, and the respective assessment of disengagement incidents.
Should Waymo withhold this information in the first place?
From a business point of view, I get it. By releasing information regarding its safety practices and technology, Waymo could give its competitors an edge. No company would want to disclose trade secrets, right?
But there are also some ethical considerations. Shouldn’t this data be open to the public anyway?
Here’s what a Waymo spokesperson said to 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.
Yes, Waymo’s website has safety reports and performance data, but none of those files include actual information about what really matters to passengers: what happens when the vehicle loses or gives up control, or even collides?
It’s exactly this level of transparency that every AV company should aim for, especially since the technology is being tested on public streets with actual human passengers on board.
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