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Waymo accuses Uber of stealing driverless car tech

Fri 24 Feb 2017

Uber self-driving

Google’s driverless car unit Waymo is suing Uber, accusing the ride-hailing giant of stealing trade secrets to further its own autonomous driving efforts.

The lawsuit follows Uber’s $680 million (£542 million) acquisition of self-driving truck startup Otto in 2016. Otto was co-founded by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who now works at Uber.

Waymo is charging Levandowski of stealing 14,000 ‘highly-confidential’ files and is suing Uber over the alleged theft of LiDAR sensor technology, as well as for unfair competition.

The company alleges that Levandowski used specialised software to access the documents and went to great lengths to reprogram his computer in order to cover his tracks.

Google’s parent company Alphabet released the following in an official statement: “Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time and expense of independently developing their own technology.

“Waymo is calling for a trial to stop Otto and Uber from using what it says is patented technology. Waymo also wants unspecified damages in what it described in court documents as ‘an action for trade secret misappropriation, patent infringement, and unfair competition.'”

The company further argued that a ‘calculated theft’ of its technology ‘reportedly netted Otto employees over half a billion dollars and allowed Uber to revive a stalled program, all at Waymo’s expense.’

Waymo is seeking damages, as well as an injunction to prevent Uber using the pilfered information.

In a Waymo blog post, the company explained that as it has worked with Uber across various projects, it had not been an easy decision to make. “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.”

The self-driving sector has sparked fierce competition between global technology firms. Promising to prevent road casualties, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, automotive manufacturers, startups and large tech companies are all hopping on board and developing driverless solutions.

Uber has been developing its own autonomous designs and has launched pilot initiatives to trial the new technology. Last year, it began testing the model to pick up commuters in San Francisco, but the programme was interrupted as the company did not have the correct permissions to operate self-driving vehicles in California.


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