Wednesday, 21 April, 2021


Uber vs. Waymo Trial Over Self-Driving Car Tech Starts Today

Anthony Levandowski Anthony Levandowski
Bennie Garza | 11 February, 2018, 07:40

Waymo is suing Uber over claims that the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company improperly obtained Waymo's proprietary information about navigation technology for self-driving cars, using it for Uber's own driverless-car program.

Waymo also alleges that the company used Waymo's laser and radar technology called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) for developing the its own self-driving vehicle. Witnesses will include Travis Kalanick, the voluble co-founder of Uber who was forced out as its chief executive officer in June, and Alphabet's reclusive chief, Larry Page, who rarely speaks publicly. What was then known as Project Chauffeur eventually grew into Waymo, a semi-independent company managed by Google's parent company, Alphabet.

"They took our technology to win at all costs", said Verhoeven, a partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. He is still expected to take to the witness stand during the trial, but will probably not comment on the events that are central to the lawsuit.

Kalanick's bare-knuckled style of business was in evidence during Waymo's opener, as a text Kalanick wrote to Levandowski was shared with jurors. Uber already faced a hefty amount of scandals and controversies that pushed the company into a downward spiral in 2017, therefore a legal victory may be needed for the company to regain some consumer confidence. In Uber's, Waymo filed a threadbare lawsuit because it was losing engineers to Uber and other companies and wanted to hobble its rival.

Uber had seen Levandowski much as the Golden State Warriors saw Kevin Durant before signing him - as a star to be acquired to help achieve greatness, Carmody suggested.

If focusing on recruitment is one way to blunt the bad optics of Uber's internal messaging, then the focus on technology is another.

An epic court battle between Uber and a Google spinoff, centered on the alleged theft of self-driving vehicle technology, began with accusations of sinister plots and other devious behavior lobbed in both directions.

A Google-bred pioneer in self-driving cars and Uber's beleaguered ride-hailing service are colliding in a courtroom showdown revolving around allegations of deceit, betrayal, espionage and a high-tech heist that tore apart one-time allies.

The investigation into potential trade secret theft began in late 2016 when Waymo accidentally received an email from a self-driving technology supplier containing an attachment detailing Uber's LiDAR circuit board. The other: that the technology Levandowski allegedly stole never made its way into Uber's vehicles. Carmody presented a slide from a March 2015 internal presentation at Google that noted "Uber is and will be extremely formidable". Levandowski joined Uber because, the Texas lawyer said, he thought he'd be joining a victor.

As the trial got under way Monday, Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven likened Uber to Rosie Ruiz, the infamous 1980 Boston Marathon runner.

"The law goes out of its way to protect employee mobility because it is essential to innovation, to a dynamic economy, and to free choice to work where you want", Uber said in a statement.

"Uber is cheating", Verhoeven said. If he chooses to stay quiet, Levandowski will be required to assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination in front of the jury as Waymo lawyers barrage him with questions.

The trial's first day featured appearances by Waymo CEO John Krafcik and its lead engineer, Dmitri Dolgov. But Sasha Zbrozek, the Waymo engineer who built the server, told the company's lawyers that the files were low-value enough that Waymo had considered hosting them off its infrastructure.

Of course, the jury could also find Uber not guilty and that would be that.

Presiding over the case is Judge William Alsup, a veteran of another high-profile lawsuit, the unsuccessful $9 billion action by Oracle against Google over code used to develop Google's Android operating system.

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