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Waymo sues Uber for alleged theft of self-driving technology

Published 24 February 2017

Waymo has filed a lawsuit against Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing key parts the self-driving technology.

The self-driving subsidiary of Google claims that one of its former employees Anthony Levandowski had downloaded about 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for the self-driving car’s hardware system, equivalent to 9.7GB of data and started his own self-driving company named Otto.

Uber acquired Otto in 2016 and appointed the founder as its head of the self-driving technology.

Waymo stated that the LiDAR technology was one of the major reasons for Uber to acquire Otto.

It also stated that it recently received an email from one of its suppliers claiming that Uber’s LiDAR circuit board design had a striking resemblance to Waymo’s LiDAR.

According to Waymo, since 2009, it has developed a unique light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system which works by bouncing of laser beams off surrounding objects and measuring how long it takes for the light to reflect. This helps in creating 3D picture of the world around. And this technology is being claimed crucial for Waymo’s self-driving car.

The company in a statement said: “We believe these actions were part of a concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property. Months before the mass download of files, Levandowski told colleagues that he had plans to ‘replicate’ Waymo’s technology at a competitor.

“We’re seeking an injunction to stop the misappropriation of our designs, return all trade secret information and cease infringing our patents.

“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.”

Image: Google’s Waymo sues Uber for theft of self-driving car technology. Photo: Courtesy of Alphabet Inc.