Uber stole Google self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy, Waymo law­suit al­leges

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MICHAEL LARIS Wash­ing­ton Post

Uber is build­ing its self-driv­ing car busi­ness on stolen Google laser tech­nol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed Thurs­day that pits two of the lead­ing names in au­ton­o­mous cars against each other.

“Mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing this tech­nol­ogy is akin to stealing a se­cret recipe from a bev­er­age com­pany,” ac­cord­ing to a blog post from Waymo, the self-driv­ing com­pany cre­ated by Google par­ent Al­pha­bet.

Waymo said the al­leged far-reach­ing thiev­ery — which it said was led by a for­mer em­ployee and in­volved the sur­rep­ti­tious down­load­ing of 9.7 GB of con­fi­den­tial files and trade se­crets — came to light in an ap­par­ently er­rant email.

An email from an Uber spokesper­son said: “We take the al­le­ga­tions made against Otto and Uber em­ploy­ees se­ri­ously and we will re­view this mat­ter care­fully.”

The suit names both Uber and Otto, an au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy com­pany Uber ac­quired last Au­gust.

The tech­nol­ogy at is­sue is called Li­DAR, which Waymo says bounces “mil­lions of laser beams off sur­round­ing ob­jects” to paint “a 3D pic­ture of the world.”

“With a 360-de­gree field of vi­sion, and the abil­ity to see in pitch black, Waymo’s Li­DAR sen­sors can ac­tu­ally de­tect po­ten­tial haz­ards that hu­man driv­ers would miss,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

“Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s in- tel­lec­tual prop­erty so that they could avoid in­cur­ring the risk, time, and ex­pense of in­de­pen­dently de­vel­op­ing their own tech­nol­ogy.

“Ul­ti­mately, this cal­cu­lated theft re­port­edly net­ted Otto em­ploy­ees over half a bil­lion dol­lars and al­lowed Uber to revive a stalled pro­gram, all at Waymo’s ex­pense,” the suit al­leges.

Waymo said a key for­mer em­ployee, An­thony Le­vandowski, “down­loaded over 14,000 highly con­fi­den­tial and pro­pri­etary de­sign files for Waymo’s var­i­ous hard­ware sys­tems” be­fore found­ing Otto, which tar­geted self-driv­ing trucks as its first ma­jor au­ton­o­mous busi­ness.

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