Uber's legal defense: Waymo does LiDAR better, for now

Uber has denied the accusations that it took Waymo's technology.

Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving company, claimed on Monday that Uber violated a court's order to produce any and all documents in its possession that so much as mentioned information from the 14,000 confidential files allegedly downloaded by autonomous-car engineer Anthony Levandowski before he left Alphabet. He now leads Uber's driverless vehicle initiative.

Alphabet responded that Uber hasn't properly made a search for the stolen files.

Uber also provided testimony from another employee who joined Otto after leaving Waymo, Sameer Kshirsagar, who's also named in Waymo's suit. If it's found that one of its top executives did pilfer those documents and use the information within them to build Uber's LiDAR technology, the financial judgement could cripple the ride-hailing company and give competitors like Lyft the opportunity to overtake it.

Uber said it's never installed a lidar of its own design on a vehicle. Waymo charges Levandowski with planning the move while still at the Google unit, and with downloading 14,000 confidential files. But Waymo contends that Levandowski probably has the files on a non-company device, which Waymo has not been able to search. Uber also points out that Waymo could have sued Levandowski personally, but it chose not to.

Levandowski, the central witness in the case, has sought his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and will not testify, over concerns about the possibility of a criminal case being filed.

Alsup has also suggested that Uber had leverage over Levandowski it had not used, such as threatening to fire him should he not hand over the documents.

The case is against Uber, however, not Levandowski and his cohorts.

"We can't produce something that we do not have", Gonzalez said.

If Waymo really thought Uber was using secrets, it wouldn't have waited five months to pursue an injunction, she argues.

"If I can not get a declaration from [Levandowski] then, Your Honor".

The lawsuit alleges that Anthony Levandowski, once a fixture on Google's self-driving auto team, stole 14,000 files pertaining to Google's proprietary self-driving technology when he left Google to form his own self-driving technology start-up, Otto, which was later sold to Uber for north of half a billion dollars.

Levandowski is now the head of Uber's self-driving department.

"Waymo could not be more wrong", Uber's attorney argued in the new filing, "and Uber's design could not be more different".

US District Judge William Alsup said evidence amassed by Waymo to bolster its case of being robbed was extraordinary. In fact, Waymo is now in the middle of arbitration with Levandowski - which began in October - whom they accused of using confidential information to poach employees for competing companies. He and two other Waymo employees are accused of downloading thousands of confidential files, including lidar circuit board designs, before he left Waymo a year ago and launched his own robocar startup, Otto, that was acquired by Uber for $680 million.

  • Carolyn Briggs