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It's been a tough few weeks for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. After the #DeleteUber liberal backlash, and having caved to leftists by quitting Trump's advisory council, his company faces investigation and has seen dozens quit this week after sexual harassment allegations. However, things just got turned up to '11' as Alphabet's self-driving car business, Waymo, has sued Uber for stealing trade secrets in the development of autonomous cars.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Francisco federal court, accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in July, of lifting technical information from Google’s autonomous car project. As Bloomberg details, Waymo claims that Otto’s “calculated theft” of Alphabet’s technology earned Otto’s employees more than $500 million. Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber LiDAR circuit board that had a striking resemblance to Waymo’s design, according to the complaint. Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files before quitting, including the LiDAR circuit board designs, according to the complaint.
“Misappropriating this technology is akin to stealing a secret recipe from a beverage company,” Waymo wrote in a blog post explaining the suit.
Why we’re taking a stand
In 2016, Uber bought a six-month old startup called Otto and
appointed its founder (a former employee on our self-driving car
project) as its head of self-driving technology. At the time, it was
reported that Otto’s LiDAR sensor was one of the key reasons Uber
acquired the company.