Google’s Waymo is suing Uber – for stealing trade secrets and technology.
Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, is taking legal action against Otto – the self-driving vehicle portion that it sold to Uber in 2016. Uber paid a whopping $700m for Otto, but Waymo now allege that former manager Anthony Levandowski took information from them when he left to co-found it.
The lawsuit accuses Mr Levandowski of “downloading 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files” whilst still employed by Waymo, that he then used at his new employers; and then wiped his laptop to cover up the downloads. This mainly relates to a technology called LiDAR, a radar system that uses lasers to help autonomous vehicles ‘see’ what’s around them. It alleges that a Waymo employee was accidentally copied into an email intended only for Uber staff that included machine drawings of the LiDAR technology – that they should not have had access to.
An official statement from Waymo said “We believe these actions were part of a concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property”, and admitted that taking this to court was a difficult decision to take. They also said: “Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn’t make this decision lightly. However, given the overwhelming facts that our technology has been stolen, we have no choice but to defend our investment and development of this unique technology.”
This legal action is likely to be big news and inspire lots of headlines. Of course, if you need to get around but aren’t sure who’s in the right or wrong yet, there’s always spare seats on Liftshare!
Author Lex Barber