Report: Waymo-Uber Tensions Rising A Month Before Major Trial

September 8, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Tensions between Alphabet’s Waymo and Uber are still on the rise, with the two companies having approximately a month before their potential precedent-setting trial is scheduled to officially start, Bloomberg reported earlier this week. After the Mountain View, California-based tech giant accused Uber of benefiting from some of its trade secrets supposedly stolen by one Anthony Levandowski — former engineer and executive of both firms — the ride-hailing company went on a defense, accusing Alphabet’s subsidiary of making a blatant attempt to stifle a rising competitor with a bogus lawsuit, a notion that Waymo and its parent promptly dismissed.

Arturo González, one of Uber’s attorneys, previously compared Alphabet to a person who has their lawn mower stolen by their neighbor and ends up suing “the guy who bought it at the auction.” Uber never denied that Mr. Levandowski downloaded approximately 14,000 documents from Waymo’s servers before leaving the company to found Otto, a self-driving truck startup that the San Francisco-based company ended up acquiring last summer for $680 million, but claimed that he did it in order to pressure Alphabet into paying out his promised bonus, stating that none of those files ever made it to Uber. Waymo has yet to locate the controversial files and has no more fact discovery hearings to assist it in doing so before the trial starts, with Mr. Levandowski previously refusing to testify by citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Still, U.S. District Judge William Alsup who’s presiding over the case was previously quoted as saying that the existing discoveries revealed Uber was aware of Mr. Levandowski’s troublesome history with the self-driving division of Google which was later spun off into a separate entity, while also warning Waymo that it needs an explicit trail of evidence proving Uber actually used the documents taken by the engineer to convince the jury in its favor.

Waymo’s lawyers remain adamant that several uncanny similarities between its self-driving tech and that of Uber will be enough to persuade the jury Uber took its secret LiDAR and related designs, though it remains to be seen whether the company will be successful in doing so. The upcoming testimony from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may prove to be a pivotal moment in the case as the plaintiff is expected to try to prove he and Mr. Levandowski conspired to take and utilize Waymo’s trade secrets.