Google seeks to close Uber’s self-driving car project over patent row

Posted: 13 March 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Alphabet’s self-driving car project Waymo has asked a judge to block Uber’s work on a self-driving vehicle that it believes is using stolen technology.

The motion for the preliminary injunction comes a few weeks after Waymo sued Uber, alleging that the head of its self-driving division, Anthony Levandowski stole crucial technology after leaving Waymo parent company Alphabet.

Levandowski joined Uber when the ride-hailing company acquired his startup, Otto last year. Waymo was originally known as Google’s self-driving project.

Google alleges Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files related to its self-driving car efforts

Waymo’s motion includes sworn testimony from Google forensic engineer, Gary Brown, alleging that Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files related to its self-driving car efforts.

The testimony further claims that two additional employees who left Google’s self-driving project to join Otto and later Uber, Sameer Kshirsagar and Radu Raduta, also downloaded and transferred the company’s proprietary information to a personal device, including a file that listed the company’s external vendors reported Recode. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for April 27th.

Waymo’s lawsuit centres around laser technology called LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), which helps self-driving vehicles see and navigate their surroundings. Waymo filed suit against Uber after unintentionally receiving an attachment from a supplier, which showed drawings of Uber’s laser technology. In its original complaint against Uber, Waymo argued that those designs bear “striking resemblance” to its own design.

Uber faces a slew of controversies 

“Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions,” Johnny Luu, a Waymo spokesman, told the New York Times. “Given the strong evidence we have, we are asking the court step in to protect intellectual property developed by our engineers over thousands of hours and to prevent any use of that stolen IP.”

Uber has called the Waymo lawsuit “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”

The latest injunction comes as Uber faces a slide of controversies including public allegations of sexual harassment and toxic work culture. The ongoing backlash has led to many executive departures including head of Uber AI Labs Gary Marcus.

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