Tech

Uber Faces Lawsuit From Google's Sister Waymo Over Stolen Self-Driving Tech

By Justin Lee , Feb 24, 2017 11:41 AM EST

The self-driving car industry is currently taking up heat as Waymo sues Uber and Otto for stealing its technology. Waymo is a Google-owned company that has just been spun off last year. Otto on the other hand is a self-driving truck startup that Uber purchased in the past year.

Google's Waymo Versus Ex-employee Anthony Levandowski

According to The Verge, Waymo's lawsuit against Uber and Otto was filed in federal court in the state of California. Apparently, Waymo is accusing its former employee, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing confidential documents from Google before leaving the company and starting his own business. Take note that Levandowski was one of Google's engineers. He departed the company to found Otto and ultimately serve as an Uber top ranking executive.

Waymo's Statement About The Lawsuit

In a Medium post, Waymo expressed their disappointment in the "unlawful actions" that their competition has resorted into. The Google spinoff said that they have recently uncovered evidence that proves Otto and Uber's usage of Waymo's self-driving technology. This is why the Google-owned company has decided to take legal action against the startup and its parent company. Waymo says that their trade secrets were misappropriated and their patent have also been infringed.

As per Waymo's post, one of the most powerful part of their technology is the self-driving car's custom built LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging. The company said that hundreds of their engineers have put in thousands of hours and Waymo has also shelled out millions of dollars to design a unique and high-end LiDAR system. Waymo continued to say that misappropriating this technology is comparable to stealing a beverage company's secret recipe. The company aims to get an injuction to have all the misappropriation stopped, have all the trade secrets returned and cease the infringement of patents.

Details Regarding Waymo's Accusations

When Uber bought the ex-Waymo employee's startup called Otto, it was already reported that Otto's LiDAR sensor was basically one of the major reason Uber purchased the company. Recently, Waymo says that they have received an email from a supplier that specializes in LiDAR components. The supplier included an attachment in the email that Waymo describes as an inadvertent action, and this attachment included machine drawings of what was supposed to be Uber's LiDAR circuit board. Waymo says that the design had a striking resemblance to Google's supposed to be unique LiDAR design.

Additionally, Waymo says that they have found out that prior to Levandowski's resignation, he downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files including designs of the company's LiDAR and circuit board. It was said that Levandowski gained access to the design server by searching for and installing specialized software into his company-provided laptop. Waymo then said that as the former employee got inside the server, he was able to get up to 9.7 GB worth of trade secrets and confidential files. After connecting an external drive to the computer, Levandowski allegedly tried to wipe all forensic fingerprints by reformatting the said laptop device.

On top of Levandowski's actions, Waymo says that the company had discovered that there were also other ex-Waymo employees, who are now with Otto and Uber, who also downloaded additional confidential information regarding their LiDAR system. This includes lists of suppliers, statements of works and manufacturing details. Waymo says that they believe that these inappropriate actions were part of a plan to steal the company's intellectual property and trade secrets. To make the accusations even more intense, Waymo says that Levandowski has actually told his colleagues that he plans to replicate the company's technology at a rival's business. This is prior to his mass-downloading of confidential files.

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