Google’s Waymo Sues Uber Over Self-Driving Car Tech
Self-driving cars are swiftly becoming the hot new thing of the automotive world, with Waymo (formerly Google’s self-driving car project) modifying a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to replace the previous koala cars, Chevrolet building self-driving Bolts with the help of Cruise Automation and Lyft, and even Uber beginning its own self-driving car programs like purchasing startup Otto and its self-driving semis. However, people tend to get upset if someone picks up their hot new toy and says, “this is mine.”
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Essentially, that is the reason that Waymo is suing Uber. The self-driving car company is suing Uber with claims that the company and its self-driving truck startup Otto infringed on its self-driving hardware patents.
Waymo explained its lawsuit in a post on Medium last week. Basically, it revolves around an engineer named Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski used to work for Google, and is currently working for Uber. Waymo alleges that he download “over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board,” shortly before he left, using specialized software to gain access to the company’s design server.
According to Waymo, he then took that information onto an external drive, wiped his company-issued laptop, and beat it to start Otto with 9.7 GB of Waymo’s design documents.
Apparently, suspicions leading to these revelations had been building since 2015, and the final straw before the lawsuit was declared was apparently an email from one of Waymo’s suppliers, specializing in the LiDAR components that are key to Waymo’s systems. The email had an apparently accidental attachment—machine drawings of Uber’s LiDAR circuit board. According to Waymo, that design looked very, very familiar.
From Waymo: “Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn’t make this decision lightly. However, given the overwhelming facts that our technology has been stolen, we have no choice but to defend our investment and development of this unique technology.”