It was almost exactly a year ago that we learned of Waymo’s plans to sue Uber for allegedly stealing self-driving car secrets from the company. It wasn’t exactly Uber specifically, but former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski, who founded his own self-driving technology company, Otto, which was purchased by Uber. As the wheels of justice turn, the case went to court just a few days ago, and things were getting interesting in the court room. Today, in a bit of a surprise, Waymo and Uber have reached a settlement, which marks the end of the lawsuit. Waymo and their parent company Alphabet will walk away with approximately $245 Million USD worth of Uber stock, and a promise that Uber will not use confidential information in their own implementation of self-driving technology.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi released a memo apologizing for the mistakes of Uber’s past, while still suggesting that there was no wrong-doing on the part of Uber:
There is no question that self-driving technology is crucial to the future of transportation—a future in which Uber intends to play an important role. Through that lens, the acquisition of Otto made good business sense.
But the prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited others to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect, raised some hard questions.
To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work.
Khosrowshahi went on to praise the work of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group in particular, apologizing that the last year has seen them distracted from their mission.
In a statement, Waymo expressed an interest in working with Uber (which makes sense because of the $245 Mil in stock they just got) to make sure their self-driving technology doesn’t use any secret Waymo sauce:
We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.
Last Updated on February 9, 2018.