Uber Fires Back at Google Spinoff in Self-Driving Car Case

Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski

Levandowski is now the head of the self-driving cars division at Uber, and his departure from Google is fuel to a whole corporate lawsuit against the San Francisco-based company.

In the weeks since the initial filing, Waymo has asked for a preliminary injunction against Uber that would prevent the ride-hailing company from using what it says are stolen trade secrets. This is the first big lawsuit in the self-driving auto world, and things are getting a bit interesting right now, and they could spell out the future for automated vehicles. (Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has called self-driving cars an existential threat to the ride-hail giant's business.) The company also said the fact that Waymo waited for five months after learning Levandowski downloaded files to seek an injunction against Uber shows a lack of urgency.

Uber is openly admitting that it purchases its LiDAR systems from Velodyne. It said while it has been developing its own LiDAR tech, it has so far needed to rely on third-party companies to provide the system for its cars.

"Waymo doesn't meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation - probably Waymo's goal in the first place".

Uber also provided testimony from another employee who joined Otto after leaving Waymo, Sameer Kshirsagar, who's also named in Waymo's suit.

Waymo has a single-lens design and Uber's LiDAR design is "fundamentally different".

Uber's arguing that it's using its own technology and nothing was lifted from Waymo or Alphabet's servers.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup warned in court recently he was unimpressed by Levandowski's rights claim.

Uber Technologies Inc. has an alibi for Alphabet Inc.'s allegations of trade-secrets theft - the ride-hailing company's driverless vehicle technology is completely different from its rival's designs.

Uber says it doesn't have the proprietary information and wouldn't need it anyway, since it's using off-the-shelf technology for lidar sensors while it works on its own system.

"Waymo's injunction motion is a misfire", said Angela Padilla, a lawyer for Uber, said in a statement on Friday.

Waymo said Friday that Uber's assertion it's never touched the 14,000 files is "disingenuous at best, given their refusal to look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program". A redaction mistake in a recent filing revealed that Lior Ron, Levandowski's co-founder in Otto, has also been implicated in the lawsuit. The company's Otto self-driving trucks, which are deployed in Nevada, do not use even use lidar, Uber says.

Before Levandowski defected from Google early a year ago start Otto, Waymo alleges he downloaded more than 14,000 documents containing trade secrets that is now helping Uber. Four months later, he co-founded Otto, which was then acquired by Uber in August for $680 million. Levandowski, meanwhile, has asserted his Fifth Amendment rights to protect himself if criminal charges are filed against him. "We're going to demonstrate to you that we are not using any of these things that they say he may have taken", Uber's attorney said. Your guy should return-he's not denying it, you're not denying it, no one on your side is denying that he has the 14,000 files.

"Mr. Levandowski took extraordinary efforts to raid Waymo's design server and then hide his activities", reads Waymo's original complaint.

Uber began developing its LiDAR design before it hired Levandowski.

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