Trial Between Uber self-driving cars and Google search
One algorithm for two technologies.
Uber settled a lawsuit in February 2018 brought by Waymo, Google's self-driving car company after nearly a year of trial. Terms of the settlement admit Google to receive 0.34% of Uber's equity at an earlier valuation high of $72 billion, which comes to about $245 million.
In a statement Uber apologized to its competitor Waymo, agreed to pay the fine and promised Uber would clean up its act despite a formal admission to obtaining trade secrets never came.
One man for two business
Anthony Levandowski has been recently awarded the Hot New Startup, a prize the industry gives to talented personalities of the tech world. He owns a self-driving truck company and he is well known for his pioneering engineering of self-driving car technology applied to Uber.
While in the middle of a battle against regulators, taxi companies, a consumer boycott campaign, allegations of a toxic work environment and upstart competitors, Uber has prompted to face a new major legal suit filed by Google.
And staging the lawsuit is Levandowski himself, who now runs Uber’s self-driving car program but in the past was Google’s self-driving car project employee.
Lewandoski’s Otto soon bought by Uber
According to a The New Yorker’s enquiry, Levandowski would have founded his own company Otto after stealing Google’s seven years and many millions of dollars worth of research and development concerning self-driving cars technology trade secrets. When Uber acquired Otto past in 2016, it gained access to Google’s secrets which the ride sharing company is now using as their own to provide to its over 93 million monthly active users worldwide, services of ride-hailing, food and package delivery, couriers, freight transportation, electric bicycle and motorized scooter rental.
LIDAR allows autonomous vehicle to navigate
Claims are based on a “striking resemblance” between the Google’s innovative system that allows an autonomous vehicle to navigate, and documents Lewandoski’s Otto filed with the Nevada state government to obtain certificate. The system has the name of LiDAR, and allows an autonomous vehicle to build a 3D map of its environment and “see” where it is going thanks to a sophisticate net of lasers.
Waymo filed its lawsuit after it received an email originally meant for Uber executives with attached images of a LiDAR-related computer chip that Waymo recognized as its own design.
Trial between Google’s Waymo and Uber
The trial between Google’s Waymo and Uber started in 2018 over self-driving car trade secrets. As the fifth day of a trial was set to begin, after the testimony stage, the settlement was announced before court. The suit dates back to February 2017, when Google’s Waymo sued Uber for trade secret theft.
Alleged downloading of over 14.000 trade secrets files
Waymo, Google's self-driving car company, filed the lawsuit against Uber alleging that it have had stolen trade secrets for its own self-driving car program. Precisely, the lawsuit alleged that Levandowski, former Waymo’s employee, secretly downloaded about 14,000 files from Google's servers containing the secret LiDAR light detection and ranging systems based information, and that shortly after the fact, Levandowski left Google to set his own company which Uber would have acquired after eight months from its foundation. To serve as an evidence, according to Waymo, Google has worked on autonomous cars since 2009 and Uber since 2015.
Waymo’s lawyer presents the Uber’s secret plan theory
Waymo’s lawyer alleged that former Uber CEO Kalanick engaged in a secret plan to induce Levandowski to come over and copy the technology they had already developed for Waymo.
While Waymo had wanted at least $1 billion in damages and a public apology from Uber, Uber was reported to had rejected those terms since asserting that no trade secrets ever came to it.
Settlement comes while debating on witnesses
The decision to settle the dispute has stemmed while Waymo on trial was trying to prove former and current Uber employees anticompetitive conducts.
Their intention, not yet fulfilled at the moment of releasing the settlement, was to pair evidence of the theft of Google documents that Uber used to create its LiDAR, with demonstration of LiDAR technology’s uniqueness developed by Waymo engineers.
The case is about trade secrets theft allegation
Judge William Alsup, the Federal Judge assigned to the case, has exhorted Waymo to focus its defence not about Uber's business actions but whether Uber's LiDAR was based on stolen information since the lawsuit only concerned the hardware, lidar-focused portion of Waymo’s trade secret theft allegations and not the software.
During testimony stage, Levandowski said how much he was frustrated by the pace of Google's program and wanted to start his own company and how Uber encouraged his venture. Uber CEO, said he didn't think Uber stole trade secrets from Waymo, but some employees may have inappropriately taken files from Google before they left.
Gordon Gekko served during trial
At the center of Court testimony are many emails and text messages produced on trial. One of them was a message sent by Levandowski to former Uber CEO containing a link to a short video of Michael Douglas' "Greed is Good" speech from Wall Street, which Waymo lawyers was allowed to play implying the willing to do anything in the pursuit of riches.
Witnesses were set to testify again before the settlement outing, about how Waymo’s trade secrets had appeared in Uber LIDAR designs.
The settlement is valued at $245 million worth the percentage of 0.34 equity stake in Uber, which has been valued at $72 billion. Waymo had originally requested $1 billion in cash to settle the suit but on the fifth day in Court, it accepted a downsized deal to end a year-long litigation process.
The terms of settlement
Beside financial obligations, Uber has committed to a legally binding agreement that they will not use Waymo hardware or software intellectual property in their own self-driving-car technology.
Virtual consequences of ending the trial
The question is whether or not Uber now may have to modify its Lidar technology. If the lawsuit have continued, Uber may have prompted to leave the self-driving car business. A billion-dollar decision as a possible outcome for this lawsuit could have restricted the company’s ambitions since it needs to develop autonomous vehicle tech to survive.
Levandowski’s head on the Attorney’s table
But the multi-year legal saga between Uber and Google was far from being over at the moment of the settlement.
In March 2020, two years later the settlement, Anthony Levandowski has agreed to plead guilty to stealing Google trade secrets. While the trial between Uber and Google ended with a settlement that left unsolved the responsibility of Uber, Levandowski remained on the hook for criminal charges of trade secret.
Heavy plea agreement for the former Otto founder
During the trial, he exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to hand over any related documents, which urged the US Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California to charge him with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets for allegedly stealing roughly 14,000 documents from Google prior to founding and selling Otto to Uber.
Levandowski’s plea deal implies prosecutors dropping 32 charges in exchange of him admitting he downloaded one Waymo spreadsheet file and accessed it after leaving his role at Google.
The plea agreement could cost to Levandowski between 24 and 30 months of prison time.