Uber fires back at Google spinoff in self-driving car case

08 April, 2017, 07:20 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • Anthony Levandowski

Uber is scoffing at claims that its expansion into self-driving cars hinges on trade secrets stolen from a Google spinoff, arguing that its ride-hailing service has been working on potentially superior technology.

"Waymo's injunction motion is a misfire", Angela Padilla, associate general counsel at Uber, said in a prepared statement.

Uber is trying to thwart a preliminary injunction sought by Waymo to stop its rival from using the documents at the center of the case. "Waymo doesn't meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation - probably Waymo's goal in the first place".

Saying Waymo "could not be more wrong" in accusing Uber of copying its technology, Uber on Friday attempted to show a court how different its self-driving vehicle sensors are from its rival's.

Waymo, the driverless vehicle arm of Google, sued Uber in February, accusing it of using trade secrets that had been smuggled away by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski. Otto was sold to Uber last August for nearly $700 million. The 9.7 gigabits of data contain trade secrets, Waymo said.

Waymo has accused Uber of stealing a design and fans around the globe are eager to know what's next for the two tech giant's battle.

"To be clear, Uber never had possession of or used any of Waymo's trade secrets or the 14,000 files that Waymo alleges Mr. Levandowski downloaded", according to the filing. Uber says it began developing its LIDAR technology nearly a year before Levandowski was hired at Uber. And Uber's defense is complicated by the fact that-for now-Levandowski has said he's going to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, if he's asked to testify.

The judge also has said he plans to order Uber to allow experts to examine its LiDAR sensors to see how they measure up against Waymo's technology.

Surprisingly, Uber admitted that it hasn't installed a LIDAR of its own design on any self-driving vehicle that's now on the road. Waymo is accusing Google of using their driverless auto technologies obtained from an ex-Google employee that is now working in Uber.

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The case is Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies Inc., 17-00939, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The company filed a motion last month requesting that the disputes around trade secrets be resolved in private arbitration instead of public court.

"You're not denying it, no one is denying he has the 14,000 files".

Waymo claims Uber is relying on secrets pillaged by Levandowski to design its own lidar - a critical component for making self-driving cars operational.

"Uber's assertion that they've never touched the 14,000 stolen 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 Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The attorney, Ismail Ramsey, told the judge the agreement between Otto and Uber to share information privately was meant to safeguard the companies from possible litigation around "various issues that arise when an employee moves from one company to another". At present, Levandowski is placed in a key role with regards to Uber's self-driving efforts. Uber later argued that this was unsupported since both designs were different and did not had "a striking resemblance". You have got to do more than what you are telling me.

"If you can not find them in your files there is going to be a preliminary injunction".

"Then why did he take the 14,000 documents?"

"This is an extraordinary case".


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