Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Uber and Waymo trial ends in settlement

Uber and Waymo trial ends in settlement

As part of the settlement, Uber has agreed to pay Alphabet the equivalent of $245 million in equity. The computer forensics expert Uber hired to scrub the engineer at the center of the dispute, Friedberg resumed testifying in the fourth day of trial in San Francisco federal court.

The case had already begun to be heard in court this week, with Alphabet-owned Waymo alleging that Uber had misappropriated driverless auto tech secrets when it brought a former Google engineer onboard to lead its autonomous vehicle team.

"My job as Uber's CEO is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past", he said.

Waymo's lawyers are trying to show that Uber didn't want to really understand the risk it was taking with engineer Anthony Levandowski and his driverless tech firm, Otto. But the trial is now over.

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In a statement, Waymo said: "We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo's intellectual property now and into the future". "We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology", a spokesperson said. That's interesting, especially since the trade secrets at the heart of the case were all related to hardware.

Just five days into the high-profile trial, however, both companies announced they'd settled the suit for what appeared to be a shockingly small amount of money. Uber and Google were once partners, although their interests later began to collide, souring the business relationship.

Waymo filed a lawsuit almost a year ago accusing Uber of conspiring with Levandowski to create a fake company that would be purchased by Uber and used to steal eight trade secrets from Google's self-driving vehicle team.

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says he regarded Google co-founder Larry Page as a "big brother" before the relationship between their two companies soured. The source says that while Uber may have to modify its Lidar technology - the focus of the trade secrets dispute - it will not be leaving the self-driving vehicle business. He also said "as far as I know" no trade secrets came from Waymo to Uber.

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Waymo, the company spun off from Google's self-driving project, had accused Uber of poaching its top self-driving auto engineer, Anthony Levandowski, who had led Google's efforts on autonomous vehicles since 2011. Google has worked on autonomous cars since 2009 and Uber since 2015. If that's not the case, then it would have to rebuild its LiDAR or retrofit its cars with LiDAR purchased on the open market, a potentially costly and time consuming move. "Waymo was already controlling the narrative surrounding the trial", a source close to Uber told me.

As Kalanick and Levandowski discussed ways to work together, they exchanged hundreds of text messages. Judge Alsup granted the motion to dismiss, and with that, the case is, in his words, "ancient history".

Uber drivers now will be alerted whenever a ride will take at least 45 minutes. When asked on the witness stand why he used it, Kalanick shrugged: "I don't know specifically".

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