Waymo had small win Monday in its fight to keep certain details about its autonomous vehicle operations from public view.
The Alphabet-owned company filed a lawsuit last week against the California Department of Motor Vehicles to keep some information from its autonomous vehicle deployment permit, as well as emails between the company and the DMV, redacted from a public record request, which was originally filed by an undisclosed third party. On Monday, a judge issued Waymo a temporary restraining order, giving the company 22 more days to avoid divulging the redacted information.
There will be another hearing on February 22 to decide on the issue of permanent injunctive relief. The hearing will dig into the question of whether or not the information should continue to be redacted from the public record in perpetuity.
Every autonomous vehicle developer, including Waymo, that tests and deploys in California must receive a series of permits from the California DMV. To apply for one of California’s permits, companies need to submit information about their safety practices and technology, information about which the DMV usually asks follow up questions.
After receiving the public record request for Waymo’s permit application, the DMV invited the company to censor sections that might reveal trade secrets. Waymo did so, even going as far as to censor certain questions the DMV had for Waymo, and the DMV sent the package to the third party with major portions blocked out. When the requester then challenged the blackouts, the DMV told Waymo it would have to release the information unless Waymo sought an injunction prohibiting the disclosure of the material in unredacted form. According to Waymo, the DMV advised the company to also file a temporary restraining order against the DMV.
At the hearing on Monday, the DMV did not oppose Waymo’s application for a temporary restraining order, according to the company. The DMV’s somewhat passive role in the matter signals that the agency isn’t interested in taking a side in the argument and is throwing it to the courts to decide.