Waymo, the self-driving car unit inside Google’s umbrella company, Alphabet, today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Uber, alleging that parts of Uber’s autonomous driving technology, specifically LiDAR, infringe on patents held by Waymo.
“While Waymo developed its custom LiDAR systems with sustained effort over many years, Defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable LiDAR system in only nine months,” Waymo wrote in the complaint it filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In the suit, Waymo stated that Anthony Levandowski, a former manager on the Google car project, downloaded nearly 10GB of confidential information before joining Uber as a manager on its self-driving car program. Levandowski also made efforts to start a new self-driving car company, which became self-driving truck company Otto, while he was still working at Google. Other Google car employees joined Levandowski’s new company and also took data with them, Waymo alleged in the suit.
Uber announced its acquisition of Otto in August — “notably, Otto announced the acquisition shortly after Mr. Levandowski received his final multi-million dollar compensation payment from Google,” Waymo pointed out in the suit.
This isn’t Uber’s only current scandal. The app-enabled cab company has also begun an investigation following the revelation of sexual harassment issues within the company and a weak response from its human resources (HR) department.
Alphabet made Waymo a standalone company within its portfolio last month.
“Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn’t make this decision lightly. However, given the overwhelming facts that our technology has been stolen, we have no choice but to defend our investment and development of this unique technology,” Waymo wrote in a Medium post. Alphabet’s GV (formerly Google Ventures) has invested more than $200 million in Uber.
A few months ago, Google executive David Drummond left Uber’s board of directors.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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