The Alphabet-owned autonomous car company Waymo has settled its civil suit with Uber over allegations of stolen trade secrets pertaining to autonomous driving technology. As part of the resolution, Uber will pay Waymo $245 million in cash, equal to a .34 percent equity stake at the ride-hailing firm’s recent $72 billion valuation.
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The dispute goes back to fired Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski.
A former Google employee, Levandowski left the tech company in 2016 (before Waymo was spun off into its own company), and launched the autonomous truck company Otto, which he then sold to Uber.
Waymo filed suit against Uber, claiming that when Levandowski left Google, he took with him more than 14,000 confidential files containing trade secrets.
The allegedly stolen data included circuit board blueprints and information concerning the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system, which is a key component in self-driving car sensor and mapping technologies. Waymo alleged that its intellectual property did in fact make its way into Uber’s own LiDAR technology.
In a blog post, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stands behind Uber’s belief that no trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, “nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology”. However, Khosrowshahi said the two companies are working together to ensure Uber’s Lidar and software were genuinely built in-house.
Khosrowshahi also acknowledged that “Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.”
“While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward,” he wrote. “I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG [Advanced Technology Group] are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology.”