For five long months, Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo and ride-sharing startup Uber have been battling it out in the courts over self-driving technology.
Now it appears an end is in sight between the two tech companies.
Timeline for Uber
- September 29, 2017
According to Reuters, Waymo is seeking at least $1bn damages and a public apology from Uber in a settlement of the suit.
In addition, Waymo wants an independent monitor to be appointed to ensure Uber doesn’t use its technology in the future.
However, it doesn’t look like Waymo is going to get what it wants. Sources familiar with the matter said Uber rejected those terms as non-starters.
What is the Waymo Uber lawsuit about?
Lidar sensors use light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on or near the road. It is central to self-driving tech as it helps the car determine how to move.
One of Waymo’s engineers, Anthony Levandowski, left Alphabet to set up his own self-driving trucking startup, Otto. Uber then acquired Otto. This was allegedly on the basis that Levandowski would bring with him hard drives hosting Waymo’s intellectual property.
Uber eventually fired Levandowski in May, but not before he had been working as head of self-driving technologies at the startup.
During the trial, Levandowski hasn’t actually denied that he took the documents from Waymo. He has asserted his fifth amendment right and refused to testify.
As well as dealing with the Waymo lawsuit, Uber has been facing some other struggles including the firing of its chief executive and co-founder Travis Kalanick. Uber has since hired a new leader, Dara Khosrowshahi, whose tenure at the company started with it losing its license to operate in London.
What does Waymo want to achieve?
Waymo does want some money from Uber, as it is estimating damages in the case to be about $1.9bn. However, reportedly its main aim is to stop Uber from using any Waymo intellectual property.
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If Uber has been using Waymo Lidar technology, it will set the company’s self-driving program back, possibly years. It’s already faced issues in this department. Earlier this year it had to pull its self-driving fleets from Arizona, California and Pennsylvania in the US after one of the autonomous vehicles was involved in a crash.
Uber is under federal investigation
The trial between two tech companies could be frozen as there is currently a federal criminal investigation into Uber’s alleged thievery of Waymo’s technology.
The judge presiding over the case, William Alsup, recommended it be investigated by federal prosecutors back in May.
When the trial is resumed in early December, Uber could request a delay in proceedings. This could cause the case to drag on for months.