Google alleges in a lawsuit that the taxi-app firm Uber equipped its driverless cars with a type of technology that a Google’s former project leader stole. Google’s driverless car business Waymo argued in court that the company’s ex employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded thousands of files from the company’s servers before resigning to start his own driverless car company. Otto.
Uber purchased Otto for $680 million last summer, about half a year after Levandowski quit.
In the filing, Waymo noted the two rival companies stole its technology to avoid the risks, investments, and time associated to independently developing their own self-driving vehicles. The firm added that the “calculated theft” enriched Otto’s founders and enabled Uber to start over with a “stalled program,” all at its expense.
Uber has yet to reply to a request for comment.
Waymo said that Uber is now in the possession of the design for its LIDAR technology (LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging) which helps its automated cars detect the surrounding objects with help from laser-based sensors. Waymo said Uber’s own version of the technology was strikingly similar to its highly secret design. Waymo claims Uber thus infringed on one of its patents.
The Google-owned company also alleges that the other employees that quit the firm to join Levandowski stole other trade secrets before they left such as technical information, supplier lists, and manufacturing data.
In the lawsuit filed with a federal court in San Francisco, Waymo accuses the ride-hailing company of unfair competition, stealing trade secrets, and patent infringement in a bid to gain a competitive edge in the autonomous vehicle business.
The plaintiff noted Otto is the brainchild of a team of ex-Google workers who were behind the pioneering efforts in the driverless vehicle research at the Internet giant. Levandowski, who worked for Google for nine years, headed that team.
He worked on the technology for more than 10 years. In 2004, when he was a freshly graduate student at UC Berkley he designed an autonomous motorcycle that the Defense Department accepted for its first contest for autonomous technologies. Later, his first startup was bought by Google.
Last year, Levandowski quit his job at Google to found Otto with another former Google employee Lior Ron. Waymo underlined that the startup was bought by Uber shortly after the engineer received his last batch of “multimillion dollar” compensation payment from the web search giant.
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