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Uber red-faced from Waymo legal row judge's repeated slapping
Still allowed to continue self-driving research, however
Where have they gone?
The big question at this point is: did Uber use those stolen documents in developing its own LiDAR tech?
Uber swears the files have never entered its system and has provided text searches of its internal systems that bring up nothing as evidence that it has no knowledge of them. Judge Alsup is not persuaded and has given the court-appointed special master the ability to run more than specific text searches to see if the documents are there. The judge also notes that it is more than possible that Levandowski simply kept the files on a personal device and referred to them whenever needed.
The judge is also entirely skeptical about Uber's claims over how its technology has developed in recent years. "Defendants have also presented an 'independent development' narrative in which they developed their own LiDAR technology without using any confidential information from Waymo," he writes in the order.
"That narrative, however, studiously omitted any inquiry into Levandowski's work, essentially erasing him from the history of Uber's self-driving car development. Put differently, the record shows Uber bought Levandowski's services for a tremendous amount of money and positioned him at the forefront of its self-driving car efforts but is barren on how Levandowski has been earning that money and title."
In other words: yeah, right. In fact, the judge makes it plain that he believes he is looking at an "old-fashioned, all-American misappropriation of trade secrets."
In an effort to get to the bottom of things, Judge Alsup issued a number of orders, including that Uber must, in writing, prevent Levandowski and any other employees or consultants from consulting or copying the stolen Waymo files, and well as return any copies to Waymo by May 31.
As for Levandowski, Uber must "immediately remove him from any role or responsibility pertaining to LiDAR ... prevent him from having any communication on the subject of LiDAR ... and prohibit him from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials in any way."
And by June 23, Uber must provide the court and Waymo "a complete and chronologically organized log of all oral and written communications – including, without limitation, conferences, meetings, phone calls, one-on-one conversations, texts, emails, letters, memos, and voicemails – wherein Anthony Levandowski mentioned LiDAR to any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, or consultant of defendants."
Once that report is in, it should be clearer just how far Uber and Levandowski colluded when it came to Waymo's files. At that point, Waymo may be in a position to apply again to stop Uber's development of self-driving tech – something that would be an enormous blow to the company. That report may also open Uber up to both massive financial damages as well as potential criminal charges.
On the same day as Alsup's order was published, Waymo confirmed it has signed a new deal with Uber's main competitor, Lyft, to work together on autonomous vehicle technology in both pilot projects and product development.
Unlike Uber, Lyft has said it has no plans to develop its own self-driving tech and the deal with Waymo has been developed over a number of months, according to a report in the New York Times. Details remain thin, however.
Waymo has already inked deals with Fiat Chrysler to include its technology in a new range of minivans and is reportedly in talks with Honda for the same. ®