Google was "super not happy" about Uber's decision to start developing autonomous vehicles, the startup's co-founder Travis Kalanick testified on Wednesday. Mr. Kalanick, who was ousted from his CEO role at Uber last June, was called to take the stand in the first two days of the high-profile trial on trade secrets theft that Alphabet's self-driving subsidiary Waymo accuses the startup of committing. Waymo started as a division of Google and was spun off into a separate entity in late 2016, not long after it claims one Anthony Levandowski copied over 14,000 of sensitive documents from the company before leaving it to found his own startup Otto which worked on self-driving trucks. Otto was acquired by Uber in the summer of 2016, with Mr. Levandowski being appointed as the head of the San Francisco-based firm's driverless vehicle division and colluding with its leadership to use the tech stolen from Waymo to advance its own project, the plaintiff claims.
Mr. Kalanick testified that Google was like a "big brother" to Uber, having originally invested in the company in 2013 and collaborating with it in many segments, though self-driving wasn't one of them. The Mountain View, California-based tech giant was "unpumped" about Uber deciding to pursue autonomous cars, the former CEO said in the court of law, adding that Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page once asked him "why are you doing my thing?" Uber already approached Mr. Levandowski while he was still at Google and ended up firing him for refusing to cooperate with its internal investigation into Waymo's allegations last year. During his time at Google, Mr. Kalanick and Mr. Levandowski exchanged hundreds of text messages, many of which are now being presented as evidence by Waymo. In one of them, the duo agreed that the second company to commercialize self-driving vehicles is the "first loser," illustrating the importance of being the winner in the race for autonomous transportation.
Another message had Mr. Kalanick instructing Mr. Levandowski to "burn the village," though he testified he cannot recall what the phrase was meant to imply. The testimony also revealed that Mr. Page was worried about Uber's efforts to develop flying cars, and though none of Alphabet's many subsidiaries ever confirmed they're working on such technologies, the conglomerate's CEO personally invested in at least one flying car startup. The trial will exclusively consist of witness testimonies for eleven more days.