Google and Uber Going Head-to-Head on Self-Driving Car Tech Case

Google has a self-driving car division which aims to develop new autonomous vehicles, a division called Waymo. Currently, the company’s direct rival is Uber, the ride-hailing app that is looking to develop a fleet of vehicles that can do the job that independent drivers currently do.

As you can expect with any two companies in direct competition, there will be some controversy. In this case, Google’s Waymo is requesting an injunction to stop Uber from using some technology that the tech company says originated at Google. Essentially, Uber is infringing on certain patents.

Uber, of course, has denied all accusations.

With that, then, both sides have to state their cases to a San Francisco judge, Wednesday morning. The judge will consider granting Google a preliminary injunction which will force Uber to immediately suspend its use of the related technology, at least while the legal proceedings continue.

Now: onto the lawsuit.

In February, Waymo had accused a former Google employee of downloading roughly 14,000 documents related to the company’s proprietary LIDAR technology; this is the system that allows Waymo’s self-driving cars to “see” and detect what is around them. The number of documents, by the way, effectively totals about nine gigabytes of data. Uber denies that any of this data ever made it to Uber servers.

However, the accusation does not necessarily accuse Uber of stealing these documents, directly. Instead, the court filings note that former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski left the company and then founded a self-driving truck company called Otto, which was then later acquired by Uber for around $680 million.
Regardless of who, allegedly, has the files, Judge William Alsup has already warned Uber, “If you cannot find them in your files, there is going to be a preliminary injunction,” adding, “You’re not denying it, no one is denying he has the 14,000 files. You keep on your payroll someone who took 14,000 documents and is liable to use them.”

Finally, he goes on to say, “This is an extraordinary case. I have never seen a record this strong in 42 years. So you are up against it.”

In defense, Uber has said, for one: “Lidar technology cannot keep up with demand for the quantities needed for testing, much less for commercial use. In fact, the impetus for [Uber] to develop an in-house customized lidar was, in part, due to the difficulty in obtaining lidar sensors in sufficient quantities from commercial sources. Uber’s primary supplier for the cars currently on the road, cannot meet the demand for its lidar.”

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