Google says it is good for their business if their competitors' cars kill more people.

Waymo sues California DMV to keep driverless car crash data from being made public:

The lawsuit argues that releasing this information to the public would put Waymo at a competitive disadvantage.

Making public the process by which Waymo analyzes crashes "could provide strategic insight to Waymo's competitors and third parties regarding Waymo's assessment of those collisions from a variety of different perspectives, including potential technological remediation," the company argues.

Moreover, it could have a "chilling effect" on the entire autonomous vehicle industry. "Potential market participants interested in deploying autonomous vehicles in California will be dissuaded from investing valuable time and resources developing this technology if there is a demonstrated track record of their trade secrets being released," Waymo claims.

Let's be crystal clear about what they're saying here:

"Technological remediation" means "how make car not crash".

if Google's competitors knew more about how the Waymo robots avoid killing people, that would allow their competitors to also kill fewer people, and that would be bad for Google's business. In fact, they claim it would have a "chilling effect" on the entire autonomous murderbot industry.

Google would prefer that their competitors' cars kill more people than their own, because that makes LINE GO UP.

They are saying the quiet part out loud.

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26 Responses:

  1. Rodger says:

    Volvo: we will give away the three point seatbelt because human lives are more important than gouging a few bucks out of this invention.

    Google: this bullshit.

  2. Mr. Fix says:

    Murder capitalism. WTF has happened to this country?

    • Elusis says:

      You mean the country founded on chattel slavery, where a select group of white men got very rich because they could literally work other people to death and torture or murder those who tried to refuse? Yeah, who could possibly have forseen this?


      • Slavery, genociding natives to steal their land, the Gilded Age, the Lochner Court, violent crushing of unions, legal crushing of unions... This is who we've always been.

        • And because we're on the topic of murder capitalism, if you haven't already I recommend checking out Ars Technica's history of leaded gasoline--people knew putting lead into fuel was a terrible idea in the 1920s, but there was money to be made, public health be damned.

          • BHN says:

            The Memory Palace podcast has a beautiful episode about this, I think the name of it is 'Butterflies'.

      • tfb says:

        Just to be clear: something like this is how the UK got rich too, of course (and probably how all European countries got rich). We just kept our slaves far away for the most part and sometimes did not call them slaves: 'we're bringing civilisation to the natives of (India|Africa|...) don't you know'.

        I don't know about the US but the tragedy in the UK is that seven years ago people were beginning to be able to talk about this and maybe come to terms with it and do something about the history we can't change. Now that's all being busily suppressed by the johnsonists and we're all waving flags (something we've basically never done previously) and marching backwards into a past that never was.

        Sorry, this is saying nothing new: I just feel awful about this as I have recent ancestors – ancestors I knew in their old age – who were very much part of this whole thing and watching what's happening is just crap.

  3. Tony says:

    I wish I could travel back in time to my grad school days and punch the version of myself that actually believed Google's "Don't Be Evil" schtick in the face.

    • geezer says:

      I don't know when you were in grad school, but "Don't Be Evil" was a sincere intention and serious driver of policy at Google for many years. Just not anymore.

      The power of it came from individuals objecting to things on moral grounds. For a number of reasons, that's less likely and less effective with 50,000 employees than it was with 50, but it's still disappointing.

      • Dude says:

        Given that litigation against Google goes all the way back to its start-up days and that its Chairman loves to say shit like:

        When I showed up, I thought ['Don't Be Evil'] was the stupidest rule ever, because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.

        Yeah... nothing changed about Google. "Don't Be Evil" was as made up a slogan as "Blast Processing" was for SEGA. The only thing that changed for Google (and FB/Amazon/Uber/etc.) was that they got so rich and powerful that they didn't have to be subtle about how evil they already were.

        Again, I go back to that quote by author Robert Caro:

        We're taught Lord Acton's axiom: 'all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'. I believed that when I started these books [about LBJ], but I don't believe it's always true any more. Power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do.

        The only difference between the Sergey Brin at Stanford and Sergey Brin now is that now he's gone from letting snake-oilers advertise on his search engine with faux erection pills to being a billionaire who lets COVID misinfo thrive on both the search engine, YouTube, and everywhere else under the Google/Alphabet umbrella - and in-between, he threw Amanda Rosenberg under the bus.

        • Elusis says:

          When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do

          That's good. I'm gonna save that.

          (It's surprisingly relevant to couple and family therapy.)

      • tfb says:

        'Don't be evil' as a motto for a company whose only mechanism for making money was soul-harvesting for as long as it has existed was either always a lie or extremely naïve. I'll go for 'lie': perhaps a lie told by the founders to their employees as well as to everyone else, but always a lie. If you believed it, well, sorry.

  4. Dude says:

    Never gets old: "The entire automobile industry is guilty of criminal negligence."

  5. BHN says:

    Our government could make their operating murderbots on public roads illegal unless they agree to disclose this sort of data.

    Our government doesn't appear willing to even enforce existing laws though so...

    Maybe someone needs to set up a place for witnesses of murderbot ... murders to share photos, dates, times, etc. so we can all get some perspective at least on how egregious this problem is and make our congresscritters do something abaut it.

    • jwz says:

      If airplanes were invented today, the FAA would not be allowed to exist.

      • thielges says:

        Related, the aviation industry has mostly encouraged transparency into safety issues. Aside from being the right thing to do, safety perception has a big effect on their bottom line because people are afraid of flying. Problems impacting safety are deeply studied and engineered away. The 737-max problems took too long to catch though and hopefully this will cause the NTSB to expand the scope of what is considered to be the whole system. That aircraft should have been grounded immediately after the Lion Air crash. There was already enough info to rule out pilot error.

        But cars? We’re jaded and accustomed to accept the equivalent of an airliner crashing on USA roads every day. The same people afraid to fly have no problem with driving down a highway or walking across a city street. AV makers are exploiting this misconception about safety and will go as far as promoting their product as safer than human driven vehicles, as if that’s some sort of achievement.

    • Zygo says:

      The incentives aren't quite aligned yet. There are all kinds of government frameworks that can be played against each other.

      What the transport regulators should be saying is "we're going to require you to implement specific safety technologies, and we're going to build the list of requirements out of crash data that is published voluntarily. Also, we're not going to give you any kind of break on patents (not our department), so you'd better have a big portfolio of your own, or huge bags of cash to stay in business while you catch up to any more cooperative developer who stumbles on something important you'll need to integrate into your product."

      So whoever discloses first gets to set prices on their mandatory IP portfolio, and Waymo ends up having to publish their data to avoid being shut out of the market. Or Waymo gets there first and they end up with a monopoly on murderbots--but then there's no competitors, and Waymo can't block public disclosures on those grounds. Or Waymo moves their development hub to an island nation they can purchase. There's probably too much profit incentive to give up entirely, and there's always a worse jurisdiction to develop in, so even an outright ban on murderbots in one state won't affect development timelines very much.

      International trade agreements provide global enforcement of patents, so it can be an effective way to lock companies down and make them do what you want, if you can make the system work for you.

      Unfortunately it doesn't work at the level of this lawsuit, because AIUI the US has different levels of government for building and operating the murderbots, and the latter is no longer functional due to decades-long political stalemate. But it could be an approach that Germany, Korea, or China can make work--and they're the ones that make the cars anyway.

    • J. Peterson says:


      Not complete, but it's a good start.

  6. MattyJ says:

    Body count is a trade secret now. Nice.

  7. Dude says:

    Cory Doctorow's latest "This Day in History" features this 2017 Rodney Brooks piece "Unexpected Consequences of Self-Driving Cars":

    35,000 people in the US are killed in motor vehicle accidents per year, with about 1.25 million world wide. Right now all these deaths involve human drivers. They are both horribly large numbers. Over the last 120 years we, the human race, has decided that such high numbers of deaths are acceptable for the usefulness that automobiles provide.

    My guess is that we will never see close to such high numbers of deaths involving driverless cars. We just will not find them acceptable, and instead we will delay adopting levels 4 and 5 autonomy, at the cost of more overall lives lost, rather than have autonomous driving systems cause many deaths at all. Rather than 35,000 annual deaths in the US it will not be acceptable unless it is a relatively tiny number. Ten deaths per year may be deemed too much, even though it could be viewed as minus 34,990 deaths. A very significant improvement over the current state of affairs.

    It won’t be rational. But that is how it is going to unfold.


    Also, KQED last year aired this documentary. It's an... okay primer about SF public transit, but the last few minutes 15-or-so minutes do so much fapping off about the possibilities of autonomous vehicles that I had to rewatch and make sure this damn thing wasn't sponsored by Uber or Google.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      One of the more unnerving things about the last 4-5 years of American politics has been finding myself occasionally thinking that Cory Doctorow was making good points, so it's good to see him going back to being a credulous hack. Reassuring, even.

      The cold truth is that we have, at present, no reason to believe that autonomous driving technology will lead to a lower per-mile fatality rate other than a hazy intuition that hey, human drivers really suck so how much worse could it be?

      The death rate for human drivers, as bad as it is, is a ratio where the denominator is in the trillions-yes-with-a-T of driver-miles per year. The total number of miles driven on open roads by level-five autonomous vehicles ever, in all of human history, is presently zero. We have no basis on which to make the comparison, and no credible timeline on which that data is even going to be collected.

      As far as I can tell, "but AVs will have a lower fatality rate" is 100% a deflection technique by people who desperately want to avoid having their speed limits lowered as any implementation of the already-existing, real-world ways of lowering traffic deaths would inevitably entail.

      • tobias says:

        If you go to you can see some statistical comparisons over the years based on disengagement events, whereby the driver has to take control manually. The author also wrote "the ai winter is well on it's way", so as you can guess it is not a favourable comparison to human drivers.

        • Doctor Memory says:

          Oh wow, this is exactly my jam and I was somehow previously unaware. Thank you!

      • k3ninho says:

        I get to sell you a dream, so I don't have to back up that dream when it's not realistic or ever delivered. So Autonomous Vehicles are a buttonpress away with individual vehicles serving your individual desires -- even if there's trouble where ... uh... rubber hits the road.

        I've written before now that the transition to autonomous needs generations of drivers to adapt slowly by buying generations of cars that incrementally become more networked -- to share situational awareness and respond to it in predictable ways. We also need to train generations of drivers how to live with traffic that drives optimally for mass road flow and not for an individual vehicle winning the race to get there first.

        The road system (and the autonomous vehicles on it) is concerned with collective action; the American Dream is about the supremacy of the exceptional individual.


      • Dude says:

        Doctorow didn't write the above piece.

        And all deaths-by-AV are too many.

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