Lidar startup Tyto Lidar that was acquired by the Uber-owned Otto in mid-2016 may affect the upcoming legal fight between Uber and Alphabet's self-driving division Waymo. Tyto Lidar's Chief Executive Officer and three other officials joined Otto when they were acquired last May, three months before Otto itself was bought by Uber. Tyto Lidar's talent pool has significant experience with developing Lidar systems and related technologies which may prove to be a strong defense for Uber against Waymo's lawsuit.
Last week, Waymo sued Uber over claims that the company's former employee Anthony Levandowski stole over 14,000 confidential files when he left Waymo to found Otto. Among other things, the Alphabet-owned unit alleges that Levandowski also stole trade secrets pertaining to Waymo's light detection and ranging (Lidar) solutions, the technology that's utilized by the majority of autonomous vehicles, including those Uber is currently developing. Waymo alleges that Levandowski must have stolen trade secrets from his former company as Uber wouldn't have been able to advance its efforts to create consumer-grade autonomous driving technology otherwise. The company's lawsuit claims that Uber was over half a decade behind Waymo's autonomous driving endeavors in mid-2016 but somehow managed to develop a similar, competing technology in a span of just nine months, as evidenced by the fact that the San Francisco-based tech giant is already testing an operational vehicle fleet in Arizona.
Uber already denied all allegations and accused the Alphabet-owned Waymo of trying to derail a competitor with no basis for its claims. Both the defendant and the plaintiff have yet to comment on Tyto Lidar and the fact that some of its employees seemingly had the expertise to develop a Lidar circuit board that's similar to that of Waymo's. However, that may prove to be irrelevant if Waymo manages to prove that Levandowski indeed downloaded confidential files before leaving the company, legal experts say. While an update on the dispute will likely follow in the coming months, the legal battle between Waymo and Uber may take years to resolve. The Alphabet-owned autonomous vehicle unit isn't the only entity Uber is currently having issues with as the company recently got into a controversial dispute with the California Department of Motor Vehicles over its self-driving fleet.