Uber and Waymo are still clashing, but aren't really getting anywhere.
After months of back and forth in courtrooms between Uber Technologies Inc. and Google self-driving offshoot Waymo, no outright resolution has really been met. Google lawyers made the claim that former Waymo engineer and current Uber employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 confidential files off a computer owned by Waymo. While there hasn’t been any significantly substantial evidence that would support this claim, the judge presiding over the case seems, so far, to side with Uber.
When Levandowski left Waymo, he went on to create his own self-driving truck company, Otto, which was acquired by Uber for $680 million. Waymo alleged he stole trade secrets from those swiped documents to initially start his company, and he then used them at Uber to develop the sophisticated LiDar system, which Waymo developed first. Uber insists it's never seen any documents that were owned by Waymo, but the search giant’s company says otherwise.
It hasn’t really been proven that the complex LiDar system that was built for Uber by Levandowski was heavily influenced by Waymo-owned patents and trade secrets. Waymo complained that Levandowski’s decision to evoke his fifth-amendment right has seriously hampered the proceedings against Uber. In addition to that, Uber blocked the release of 3,500 documents related to the acquisition of Otto on the grounds that it holds privileged information.
Judge William Alsup, who presides over the case, pointed out gaps in Waymo’s claims, saying “I’ve given you lots of discovery, and so far you don’t have any smoking gun.” Waymo wanted a preliminary injunction to bar Uber from working on its self-driving program, but without enough significant information, any judge would likely feel uncomfortable issuing something of that stature.
As it is, Uber took Levandowski off the LiDar projects last week. Uber agreed to search through all of its documents to make sure it doesn't have anything that could possibly be incriminating, however the company already searched through terabytes of data without uncovering anything. Waymo has the bigger burden here, as judges don’t generally like to temporarily halt projects without reams of evidence. If Waymo wants to get anywhere, it's going to have to come up with some viable proof, otherwise Uber will remain virtually untouched by this. This is a high stakes game for both companies, self-driving cars will undoubtedly be the future, and this case could determine who’s in first place.