Uber stole Google self-driving technology, Waymo lawsuit alleges
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.