Last year, the legal saga between Waymo and Uber came to a close following a $250 million settlement. An “independent software expert” was installed to ensure that the ride-hailing company does not leverage any Alphabet tech for its self-driving cars. Uber may now have to license from Waymo or redesign its vehicles to avoid any further trouble.
In February 2018, we entered into a settlement agreement with Waymo. This agreement resolved Waymo’s claims and provided for certain measures, including the joint retention of an independent software expert, to ensure that our autonomous vehicle hardware and software do not misappropriate Waymo intellectual property.
Uber considers a “final” finding from that expert to be “adverse” to “certain functions in our autonomous vehicle software.” Waymo in 2017 alleged that a startup — founded by ex-Googler Anthony Levandowski — Uber acquired had access to trade secrets and was infringing on key autonomous patents. That 2018 legal case and the Levandowski indictment dealt with LIDAR hardware used by self-driving cars to “see,” while today’s disclosure from Uber relates to AV software.
In addition, in August 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Anthony Levandowski, a cofounder of Ottomotto LLC and our former employee, on charges of theft of trade secrets from Waymo.
As a result, Uber needs to license the Waymo tech or design around the changes. It’s not clear if the Alphabet division would be interested in the former arrangement, while the latter would require “substantial time and resources to implement.” Ultimately this could “limit or delay our production of autonomous vehicle technologies.”
In a statement to Reuters, the Alphabet division says this “further confirm Waymo’s allegations that Uber misappropriated our software intellectual property.”
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