February 24, 2017
Alphabet’s self-driving car unit is suing Uber in federal court after accusing the high-tech transportation firm and its subsidiary Otto of stealing elements of its self-driving technology.
“Competition in the self-driving space is a good thing; it pushes everyone to develop better, safer and more affordable technology. But we believe that competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions,” Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle division, said in a blog post.
“Recently, we uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology. Today, we’re taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents.”
Waymo is accusing a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, of downloading 14,000 “confidential and proprietary design” files relating to the company’s “ LiDAR and circuit board” before resigning as the technical lead on Alphabet’s self-driving car division to co-found Otto with Lior Ron, former product lead of Google Maps; former Google robotics program lead Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette, a former Google software engineer.
Uber acquired Otto, an autonomous transport company, in August of 2016 for $680 million, just months after Otto’s start up.
Waymo, in its blog post, alleged Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software on his company-issued laptop.
“Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation,” Waymo said. “Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.”
Waymo alleged that Levandowki was not working alone, either.
“We discovered that other former Waymo employees, now at Otto and Uber, downloaded additional highly confidential information pertaining to our custom-built LiDAR including supplier lists, manufacturing details and statements of work with highly technical information,” Waymo said in its blog post. “We believe these actions were part of a concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property. Months before the mass download of files, Mr. Levandowski told colleagues that he had plans to ‘replicate’ Waymo’s technology at a competitor.”
Uber has yet to comment on the lawsuit.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.