Uber has hit out against “demonstrably false” claims that it stole self-driving technology ideas from Google.
Back in February, 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).
As part of the lawsuit, Waymo has asked for an injunction on the use of the disputed technology, effectively taking tests of Uber’s self-driving fleet off the roads. However, at a hearing this week Uber claimed the injunction was a “misfire”.
In a statement, a lawyer for Uber, Angela Padilla, said: “There is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber’s servers, and Waymo’s assertion that our multi-lens LiDAR is the same as their single-lens LiDAR is clearly false.”
Part of Uber’s defence is that had it stolen the information it would be much further ahead in the autonomous race, rather than relying on third-party companies to provide the system for its cars.
Padilla’s statement also added that had Waymo truly believed Uber was “using its secrets” it wouldn’t have waited so long to seek an injunction. “Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation - probably Waymo’s goal in the first place.”
According to Waymo, it argues blueprints revealing Uber’s plans to use the stolen designs had been mistakenly forwarded to them in December, dismissing Uber’s claims that none of the files were on its servers highlighting that Uber’s search evidence failed to include Levandowski’s computer.
During a private court hearing relating to the case Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, leading the presiding judge to warn Uber it needed to be firmer with Levandowski. “If you cannot find them in your files this is going to be a preliminary injunction. You’re not denying it, no one is denying that he has the 14,000 files. You keep on your payroll someone who took 14,000 documents and is liable to use them,” remarked Judge William Alsup.
“This is an extraordinary case. I have never seen a record this strong in 42 years. So you are up against it.”
Less than two weeks ago Uber pulled its self-driving card from the roads following a crash. Over the last couple of months the ride-hailing app has lost a number of senior executives including its president, Jeff Jones, VP of product and growth and SVP Amit Signhal.