As you may already be aware, Waymo – formerly Google’s self-driving car division – is suing Uber and Otto for allegedly infringing on their patents and stealing trade secrets. With the lawsuit full-steam ahead, Uber have fired former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski under the allegations that when he left Google he downloaded 14,000 confidential files.
An Uber spokesperson has announced that Levandowski was fired on May 31 after failing to provide files for Uber to present to a judge in the lawsuit that launched in February. Uber stopped Levandowski from working on elements of its self-driving technology and Levandowski has invoked his fifth amendment right, which allows protection against self-incrimination, in light of the case.
Uber denies it has used any stolen technology in the production of its autonomous vehicles. Among the cache of files, it is alleged Levandowski took from Google is the design for Waymo’s LiDAR circuit board.
LiDAR — or Light Detection and Ranging – works by bouncing millions of laser beams off nearby objects and measuring how long it takes the light to reflect. This can be used to create a 3D map of the world which the self-driving cars use to navigate and avoid obstacles. Waymo describes the LiDAR as “one of the most powerful parts” of its self-driving technology and added that “hundreds of Waymo engineers have spent thousands of hours, and the company has invested millions of dollars to design a highly specialised and unique LiDAR system.”.
“Competition in the self-driving space is a good thing; it pushes everyone to develop better, safer and more affordable technology,” said Waymo on Medium in February when it launched the case. “But we believe that competition should be fuelled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions… Recently, we uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology. We’re taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents.”
Uber responded by saying it takes the allegations seriously and will investigate the matter carefully. It has since claimed it does not use any stolen technology. The court case for the lawsuit is currently due to take place in October.