Waymo sues Uber for alleged theft of self-driving car secrets

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It has definitely been a rough couple of months for Uber. Up next, a lawsuit from Waymo.

It has been a rough couple of months for Uber. Most recently, they’re getting sued by Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car offshoot, for allegedly stealing secrets from Waymo’s self-driving technology. Uber is only part of the lawsuit, as it’s mostly focused at Otto, the competing self-driving company that Uber purchased. Otto was founded by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski. Uber purchased Otto in 2016. In a post on Medium, Waymo outlines what led them to file charges:

In 2016, Uber bought a six-month old startup called Otto and appointed its founder (a former employee on our self-driving car project) as its head of self-driving technology. At the time, it was reported that Otto’s LiDAR sensor was one of the key reasons Uber acquired the company.

Recently, we received an unexpected email. One of our suppliers specializing in LiDAR components sent us an attachment (apparently inadvertently) of machine drawings of what was purported to be Uber’s LiDAR circuit board — except its design bore a striking resemblance to Waymo’s unique LiDAR design.

If this all shakes out the way that Waymo expects because of an inadvertent cc: on an email, that is just some horrible karma for the alleged tech thieves.

According to the lawsuit, Levandowski stole just under 10GB of Waymo secrets prior to leaving the company:

We found that six weeks before his resignation this former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board. To gain access to Waymo’s design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.

Making matters potentially worse for Mr. Levandowski, Waymo also reported that months before the alleged theft took place, he was telling co-workers that he planned to “replicate” Waymo’s technology at a competitor. He went on to found Otto shortly after leaving Waymo. You can read the full complaint if so inclined, otherwise, I’d definitely recommend checking out Waymo’s blog post on Medium at the source link below.

What do you think about Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber and Otto? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

  Source: Waymo
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