Uber and Waymo agree to settlement in self-driving auto dispute

Google and Uber reached a peace agreement Friday, bringing an end to a lawsuit in which Google-owned Waymo claimed the ride-hailing service stole some of its self-driving auto technology.

Uber is paying $245 million to Google's self-driving auto spinoff to end a legal brawl that aired out allegations of a sinister scheme that tore apart the once-friendly companies.

The settlement allows new Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi to put another scandal behind the company after the tumultuous leadership of former CEO Travis Kalanick, who testified at the trial on Tuesday and Wednesday. Uber paid $680 million for a startup run by Anthony Levandowski, one of the top engineers in a robotic vehicle project that Google began in 2009 and later spun out into Waymo. It is unclear how much Levandowski, already a wealthy man thanks to a $120 million bonus from his time at Google, personally made in the deal. Ultimately, settling is a win-win: Uber pays a small penalty, Waymo can claim a technical victory, and both companies will make money when Uber has its initial public offering. Convinced that Google was going its own way, Kalanick made a decision to start a self-driving auto division within Uber by hiring top engineers specializing in robotics from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2015. "There's no cheating - there's not a single piece of Google proprietary information at Uber", Carmody said.

"My job as Uber's C.E.O.is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past", Mr. Khosrowshahi said in a company blog post. Kalanick met with Alphabet's current CEO Larry Page and was picked up in a self-driving vehicle - Kalanick thought that was cool. As a private company, Uber is valued at around $70 billion.

A possibility remains that Uber could face further trouble over the Waymo matter, as Alsup in May referred the case to federal prosecutors to see if criminal charges were warranted.

IP is an abbreviation for intellectual property.

Friedberg said that his firm had reviewed less than 1 percent of the data it dug up on Levandowski eight days before Uber approved the Otto deal.

"The only thing that's not OK is trade secrets", he said.

As Kalanick and Levandowski discussed ways to work together, they exchanged hundreds of text messages. 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. Kalanick also testified that he and Levandowski used a Snapchat-like messaging service called Telegraph so some conversations wouldn't be on record.

Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as CEO past year, partly because of concerns about Waymo's lawsuit.

Uber's story may not stand up because the evidence shows that Levandowski took not just what he was carrying in his head but also what he downloaded to his computer.

Waymo has drawn a sordid picture, contending that Levandowski heisted thousands of documents containing Google trade secrets before defecting to Uber.

Kalanick's comments about Google's Page are telling: "He was upset that we were taking his people" and "it was confusing because I said we are taking your people".

  • Zachary Reyes