In a US federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco on Thursday, Google’s self-driving car business Waymo is accusing Uber of using intellectual property stolen by one of their former project leaders. According to the filing, Anthony Levandowski, who runs the autonomous car division at Uber, downloaded over 14,000 files from Google a month before leaving. Levandowski then went on to form his own autonomous car company, Otto which was acquired by Uber shortly in August 2016 for $680 million. The acquisition was seven months after Levandowski left Google.
“Competition in the self-driving space is a good thing; it pushes everyone to develop better, safer and more affordable technology. But we believe that competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions. …Recently, we uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology. Today, we’re taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents. We wanted to share more context on why we made this decision.”
Otto’s LiDAR sensor was reportedly the key reason Uber acquired the company. Waymo found out about the possible issue when they were inadvertently notified by one of their suppliers specializing in LiDAR components of machine drawings of Uber’s LiDAR circuit board which they immediately found to be suspiciously similar to their unique design. Waymo claims that not only were the designs stolen but confidential information pertaining to the supplier list, manufacturing details and more technical information were taken by Levandowski as well. Levandowski was also said to have told colleagues of plans to “replicate” the LiDAR technology at a competitor, months before he even downloaded the files.
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