Google's Waymo Accuses Uber of Stealing Its Autonomous Secrets

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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google s waymo accuses uber of stealing its autonomous secrets

Waymo is suing over claims that a former employee stole the design for one of its LIDAR systems and brought it to a competitor. The alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property came to light after the company was accidentally privy to an email chain that described an Uber design for a LIDAR circuit board that looked very familiar.

So familiar, in fact, that the Google-backed Waymo filed a lawsuit on Thursday in a California federal court. The suit accuses former Google employee Anthony Levandowski of stealing its tech for the LIDAR sensor used by the Otto autonomous startup company. Unfortunately for Waymo, Uber paid $680 million for Otto last August and is currently using the potentially stolen designs.

According to a blog post written by the Waymo team, Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 confidential and proprietary designs for its current software six weeks before leaving Google. Those files included designs for the LIDAR and circuit board.

“Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints,” claims the Waymo posting. “Months before the mass download of files, Mr. Levandowski told colleagues that he had plans to ‘replicate’ Waymo’s technology at a competitor.”

The company also says it thinks other former employees have left its ranks to join Otto and Uber’s self-driving efforts, bringing valuable trade secrets with them. Waymo says it’s all part of one big collaborative plan to steal its intellectual property.

The court filling includes patent infringement, unlawful misappropriation of industrial secrets, and unfair business practices. Waymo wants an injunction to end the use of what it believes are its own designs, and is demanding a trial over the matter.

[Image: Waymo]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Feb 24, 2017

    "Show me the blueprints." "Show me the blueprints." "Show me the blueprints." "Show me the blueprints!"

  • Stuki Stuki on Feb 24, 2017

    Once the ambulance chasers take over the shop with all their clueless, self righteous childishness, no wonder the engineers are leaving. Levandowski knew as much about autonomous tech as anyone. His brain wouldn't magically be erased by leaving his Waymo office. If he did bring actual documents, the only role they served were one of convenience. Not having to retype all the stuff, and rerun the experiments, at a new place. The value add of Otto was never a circuit board design for a technology (Lidar) that, with the current fashionableness of all things "self driving," are obsoleted every six months anyway. Instead, the value add was application of knowledge gained in the context of a more general solution to "'se;d driving," to one more specifically aimed at a much simpler subset of the problem(s) Levandowski worked on at Google/Waymo: That of heavy trucks driving on highways. Waymo could have specifically targetted trucks as well, and Levandowski would never have left. But they didn't, so he did, and in the process helped make "self driving" something with a least a sliver of potential to be something more than just hype. Which is more than any lawyer, investor, manager nor other self promoting semi literate neither have, nor ever will, accomplish. Which, of course, won't stop them from doing the only thing they are capable of: Trying to get the power of the state to help them stick their useless, grubby fingers into value chains created and fed by those that are actually trying to do something useful with their lives.

    • See 3 previous
    • Mcs Mcs on Feb 25, 2017

      @stuki Waymo, as far as I know, is being overly cautious in some bad ways. I think they need to be a bit more aggressive when it comes to testing environments. Maybe they are and I don't know about it.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.