1. Business
May 3, 2017

Uber faces Waymo in court battle over driverless car technology

Ride-sharing company Uber will face Waymo — formerly the Google self-driving car project — in San Francisco federal court today.

A judge is expected to decide whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction forcing Uber to immediately halt its autonomous vehicle development until a jury issues an official verdict on the case.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company sued Uber in February for stealing trade secrets from Waymo, alleging that a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded 14,000 confidential documents relating to LiDAR, the system that allows self-driving cars to see what’s around them.

Levandowski then went on to found Otto, a self-driving truck company, acquired by Uber for $680m in August last year.

The ride-sharing company denies that the LiDAR documents ever reached its servers but Waymo has accused Uber of a cover-up.

Alphabet is demanding an injunction to prevent Uber from developing its first fully autonomous car with the disputed technology.

Judge William Alsup warned Uber at an 5 April hearing:

If you cannot find them in your files, there is going to be a preliminary injunction.

Uber categorically denies the allegations of misconduct.

“If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction,” Uber said.

“Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation – probably Waymo’s goal in the first place,” the controversial company added.

If the judge does order a preliminary injunction, Uber will suffer a big setback.

“The worst-case scenario for Uber is that the judge says, ‘There’s no way you can, in my view, given all the facts I’ve seen, move forward with this autonomous-vehicle project between now and trial without misusing this information that has already contaminated what you’re engaged in,’” said Jim Pooley, a Silicon Valley intellectual property lawyer.