Uber, Waymo settle self-driving automotive lawsuit


Back in February 2017, Google company Waymo filed a lawsuit claiming its former employee Andrew Levandowski, who went on to co-found self-driving truck company Otto, which was acquired by Uber for $6000m, had stolen 14,000 documents containing information relating to the core technology used in its autonomous vehicles (LiDAR).

A settlement in the middle of a trial is highly unusual, but both companies had motives for doing so in this case.

A Waymo lawsuit over autonomous auto technology, in which it accused Uber of stealing trade secrets, was in a San Francisco courtroom for all to see. The payout is a 0.34 percent value stake in Uber to Waymo which adds up to around $245 million, as reported by CNBC.

On Friday, four days after the trial began and revealed, Uber and Waymo announced they had settled the trade secrets dispute.

Kalanick, a polarising figure who resigned as Uber's CEO last June, had already spent part of two days on the stand reviewing old texts between him and Levandowski indicating that they were willing to go to any lengths to catch up with a self-driving auto project that Google started in 2009. He said Waymo made a compelling showing that Levandowski absconded with its files and that Uber "knew or should have known" that when it brought him aboard. Uber bought Levandowski's start-up, Otto, for $680 million in 2016.

The payment, to be made in Uber's stock, is a fraction of the almost $2 billion in damages that a Waymo expert had estimated Uber's alleged theft had caused.

The case hinged on Waymo's ability to show not only that Levandowski had taken Google's private source code, but that Uber had used it improperly to catch up with rivals. The settlement also covers more than 100 other trade secrets that Waymo alleges Levandowski stole. Uber fired its self-driving chief after Waymo sued, and it is well behind on its plans to deploy fleets of autonomous cars in one of the most lucrative races in Silicon Valley.

Alphabet's Waymo division was seeking at least $1 billion over the theft of secrets from its self-driving auto program in the trial before federal judge William Alsup.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO, said in a letter Friday his job is to set the course for the future of the company and expressed regret over the ordeal.

Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as CEO a year ago, partly because of concerns about Waymo's lawsuit. The company simply wanted to hire talented scientists and engineers to help lead Uber into a future of driverless cars, the statement said.

"To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people's lives for the better", Khosrowshahi said in the statement. "The evidence at trial overwhelmingly proved that, and had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed", the statement said.