Waymo sues Uber for alleged theft of self-driving technology

Waymo sues Uber for alleged theft of self-driving technology

The latest one to make headlines is the patent infringement lawsuit filed by Alphabet's self-driving vehicle unit, Waymo against Uber alleging that parts of Uber's autonomous driving technology, specifically LiDAR, infringe on patents held by Waymo.

In addition to Levandowski's actions, Waymo also found other former employees, now at Otto and Uber, to have pirated highly important information as well.

Levandowski worked as a manager in the then-Google self-driving vehicle project before leaving to start his own self-driving truck company, Otto, in January 2016.

According to Waymo, since 2009, it has developed a unique light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system which works by bouncing of laser beams off surrounding objects and measuring how long it takes for the light to reflect.

In court documents filed on Thursday, Waymo alleges one of its employees was recently copied in to an email intended for Otto's staff.

Waymo claims that it has invested millions of dollars in the design of unique LiDAR systems suited specifically for its needs.

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According to the complaint [PDF], filed Thursday in the US District Court for San Francisco, Anthony Levandowski, founder of Otto, the self-driving auto startup Uber acquired for $680m past year, built his company on documents lifted in the final days of his job at Waymo. Waymo even alleges that Levandowski used special software on his company-issued laptop to download all the files to an external drive and then wiped and reformatted the laptop before returning it.

Uber could be heading to court for another lawsuit. The company has hired lawyers including former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a review into the harassment allegations. As we detailed yesterday, Waymo's allegations involve a concerted effort from former employees to stealthily access and download gigabytes upon gigabytes of top secret and proprietary technical information. Otto's LiDAR system was a key driver in Uber's acquisition of the company.

The complaint claimed Levandowski loaded 14,000 confidential files on to a laptop before leaving to start Otto. Uber was accused with charges unlawful misappropriation of trade secrets, patent infringement, and unfair competition.

Waymo says that it has made a decision to file a lawsuit against Uber after receiving an email from one of its suppliers. Afterward, "he installed a new operating system that would have the effect of reformatting his laptop, attempting to erase any forensic fingerprints".

Six weeks before he resigned, Waymo accuses Anthony Levandowski of taking "extraordinary efforts to raid Waymo's design server and then hide his activities", according to the lawsuit, filed against Uber Technologies and its subsidiary, Otto, in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

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