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Uber, Waymo face off in court over stolen self-driving tech
May 25 2017, 06:05 | Alexander Lowe
Uber in US court reckoning on possible shutdown of self-driving programme
Waymo, a Google-spinoff, is seeking an injunction against Uber's program, effectively halting it for the duration of the trial.
Alphabet filed suit in February, accusing Uber of using information Mr. Levandowski allegedly stole while a key manager at Waymo - Alphabet's self-driving vehicle project - to develop a laser sensor for Uber's own self-driving navigation. Alsup asked Uber's lawyer.
At issue on Wednesday is Waymo's demand that U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco issue an injunction barring Uber from using any of the technology that Waymo said was stolen.
Uber claims Waymo started planning to sue Levandowski in March 2016 - that's almost one year before it filed its suit against Uber and seven months before it brought two private arbitration demands against Levandowski.
Alsup pressed on, asking what would prevent someone at Uber from consulting files on Levandowski's personal laptop and drawing from that information to guide the development of self-driving technology.
Waymo's also pointing to some shady email exchanges between Uber executives allegedly discussing a meeting with Lev and the formation of a new company, mysteriously titled, "NewCo".
Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez has said the files Waymo says Levandowski stole never reached Uber computers or servers, and that examinations by forensics experts and attorneys of computers belonging to 131 former Google employees now at Uber have so far turned up one email and one two-page attachment that might be a Waymo trade secret. According toIna Fried, also at the hearing, Waymo produced a "document showing Levandowski got more than 5 million shares of Uber stock that vested the day after he left Google". Backdating gives Levandowski credit for the time he was at Otto. "When he's supposedly building his own technology, he's secretly working for Uber".
The judge, however, pointed out that Alphabet isn't suing Levandowski, it's suing Uber.
Global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies is rethinking its vehicle leasing strategy in India, its second-biggest market, as drivers have returned dozens of leased cars early. "Let's say they are totally innocent and the worst thing they did was pay a lot of money to hire away a brilliant guy from another competitor?" Levandowski, apparently seeking to avoid criminal charges, has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven reportedly said that Waymo believes that evidence likely exists, however, citing Uber's "improper" withholding of "thousands of documents" as confidential legal documents. "The privilege we are claiming is a legitimate privilege".
Since the lawsuit was filed in February, Uber has interviewed 85 employees and maintained a team of 40 attorneys who have reviewed more than 300,000 documents.
In lidar - or light detection and ranging - scanning, one or more lasers sends out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle, whether clouds, leaves or rocks. Those files included plans for Waymo's proprietary lidar system, according to the company. More depositions might be required to rule out similar scenarios.
Finally, we might see Travis Kalanick, Uber's chief executive, take the stand.
"We are adamant that we did not use any of their secrets", he said. "Nobody's hiding at Uber". The judge didn't issue a ruling today.