Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous car company, alleged in a court filing on Friday that Uber has been developing a secret, secondary self-driving technology that is a more direct copy of Waymo’s autonomous driving designs — and that the ride-hail giant intentionally concealed this project from the court.
“Uber has taken, copied, and used Waymo's technology. This, along with Uber's subsequent cover up and violations of this court's orders, show the need for an injunction in this case,” read Waymo documents filed today in support of its request for an injunction against Uber. The injunction would temporarily halt Uber’s self-driving car program.
"Uber should be enjoined from continuing to use Levandowski in its driverless car program and from continuing to misappropriate and infringe Waymo’s intellectual property,” Waymo wrote.
The filing is the latest development in the legal battle between Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo over allegedly stolen self-driving car technology. Specifically, the lawsuit centers around LiDAR, or Light Detection And Ranging technology, which is what helps autonomous vehicles navigate.
In February, Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber claiming that it had intentionally stolen Waymo’s intellectual property when it made Anthony Levandowski, a former Waymo employee, the head of its self-driving car program. (Levandowski was the co-founder of Otto, an autonomous truck startup, which Uber acquired in August 2016.)
In Friday’s filing, Waymo says that during deposition earlier this week, an Uber engineer “was forced to admit” that the company was working on a second LIDAR technology that more closely resembles technology built by Waymo.
Earlier this month, Uber emphatically denied Waymo’s allegations, saying that “A cursory inspection of Uber’s LiDAR and Waymo’s allegations fall like a house of cards.” Levandowski pled the fifth to avoid testifying. At the time, Uber argued its so-called “Fuji” LiDAR technology was “fundamentally different” in its design from that built by Waymo.
But in the reply filed today, the company says Uber’s claim that the four-lens Fuji LiDAR was its only LiDAR project is “a cover up” and alleges Levandowski himself worked on the second, secret self-driving technology, the name of which is redacted, but which Waymo says it copied from Waymo’s own LiDAR design, the name of which is also redacted. “In its Opposition, Uber misrepresents its LiDAR design efforts to this court,” reads the reply.
In the documents filed today, Waymo also surfaces evidence from a deposition earlier this month which suggests Uber started preparing for possible legal action regarding self-driving car technology before it even acquired Otto and “just two days after Levandowski left Waymo, and probably even before that.”
Uber said the secondary LiDAR project Waymo is referring to was strictly conceptual, never prototyped, and is not currently in use on any Uber vehicles.
The next hearing regarding the injunction in Waymo v. Uber is scheduled for May 3.
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O'Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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