Google Accuses Uber and Otto of Stealing Self-Driving Car Technology

Google’s self-driving car division, Waymo, is charging a former Waymo engineer, now at Uber’s self-driving trucking company Otto, of stealing trade secrets by the gigabytes – claiming damages of at least $500 million USD.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in San Francisco federal court, Waymo accused former manager at Google’s self-driving car project Anthony Levandowski of downloading over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary files before leaving to work at his newly formed self-driving truck company Otto.

According to a new report from Recode, Levandowski is a co-founder of Otto, the truck firm that Uber acquired last year for $680m.

Waymo said in a blog post that the secrets involve its LiDAR sensing system, the crown jewel in its self-driving design. Waymo recently announced home-designed lidar sets with overlapping ranges and functions, the first such system in the self-driving business.

“Recently, we received an unexpected email,” Waymo says. “One of our suppliers specializing in LiDAR components sent us an attachment (apparently inadvertently) of machine drawings of what was purported to be Uber’s LiDAR circuit board?—?except its design bore a striking resemblance to Waymo’s unique lidar design.”

“Fair competition spurs new technical innovation, but what has happened here is not fair competition,” Waymo said in the complaint. “Instead, Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time, and expense of independently developing their own technology.”

The lawsuit alleges unlawful misappropriation of trade secrets, patent infringement and unfair competition.