BUSINESS

Waymo and Uber settle self-driving vehicle trade secret dispute

Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, US. (Reuters)

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit and ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc have settled their legal dispute over trade secrets, the two companies said on Friday.

Uber agreed to pay equity valued at about $245 million to Waymo, according to a Waymo representative. Waymo had previously estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion, which Uber rejected.

A jury trial to decide a lawsuit filed by Waymo a year ago was dismissed by the judge just five days after it started in San Francisco federal court.

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.

The settlement includes an agreement “to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software,” a Waymo representative said. 

Trade secrets 

Khosrowshahi, who joined the company last August, said: “While we do not believe that any 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, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work.”

Khosrowshahi expressed “regret” over the company’s actions.

Waymo’s lawsuit said that one of the company’s former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files containing designs for autonomous vehicles in December 2015 before he went on to work at Uber in 2016, leading the ride-hailing firm’s self-driving car unit.

The case had hinged on whether Uber used the trade secrets to further its autonomous vehicle program.

Levandowski has never publicly addressed the allegations of taking the documents and law enforcement has not charged anyone with their theft. Levandowski was not a defendant in the case.

Autonomous cars offer a multi-billion-dollar opportunity to remake transportation, and companies including Apple Inc , General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG and scores of startups are competing to develop the technology.

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Last Update: Friday, 9 February 2018 KSA 20:52 - GMT 17:52
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