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Uber v Waymo - where's the smoking gun?

    

A federal judge was expected to decide whether to grant Waymo's request for an injunction as The Economist went to press.

Alphabet claims that Uber stole propreitary self-driving auto technology from Google's exciting Waymo project, with Alphabet's lawyers claiming that Uber created the original LLC, Ottomotto company as a "diversionary tactic and that Uber and Otto executives planned to acquire the company all along", reports Engadget.

Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick has said that autonomous vehicles, though still in their infancy, are critical to the company's long-term success and future growth.

Self-driving technology is crucial for Uber's business because it could help it become significantly more profitable.

The case is Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies Inc., 17-cv-00939, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). He said it seems overwhelmingly clear that a former Waymo executive who now works for uber stole 14,000 confidential files before he quit Waymo.


The judge, however, pointed out that Alphabet isn't suing Levandowski, it's suing Uber. A redaction mistake in a recent filing revealed that Lior Ron, Levandowski's co-founder in Otto, has also been implicated in the lawsuit. But he then reiterated that the lack of evidence - due to Levandowski and Uber's refusal to produce information - that Uber was in on the theft, or that Waymo's trade secrets had made it into Uber's LiDAR system, was "a problem". However, Alsup had not completely bought in, noting that Waymo had sued Uber and not Levandowski personally. This amount of stock in Uber was worth around $250m at the time. Self-driving vehicles are central to Uber's long-term business strategy, so halting work on them could have severe financial repercussions for the company.

Throughout the course of this lawsuit, Levandowski has pled the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer almost all questions related to the case.

Uber countered that under the law, Waymo must offer hard proof that Uber has illegally used or is about to use genuine trade secrets, and that its rival has fallen well short of that mark. "We're not hiding anything", he said.

Not the words Waymo's legal team wanted to hear from a judge in San Francisco on Wednesday, but hear them it did as it was scolded for not having enough evidence to prove its claims.

However, Waymo started growing suspicious of Uber's technology shortly afterwards, and quickly concluded that it was exactly the same as its technology.

Levandowski pleaded the 5th Amendment which protects him against self-incrimination during questioning.

Waymo wants the injunction to prevent use of anything on their trade secret list, a document which isn't public.

"I've given you lots of discovery and so far you don't have a smoking gun", judge Alsup said. The only thing that has been proved is that he downloaded 14,000 documents. Instead, the self-driving wing of Google/ Alphabet came prepared to play hardball, dishing out some completely wild allegations against its former employee Anthony Levandowski and his new employer, Uber.

However, the judge said that documents Uber has withheld about its acquisition of Otto are "a treasure trove" that will be key to the case.

Uber in US court reckoning on possible shutdown of self-driving program

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