Judge Says There's 'No Smoking Gun' in Waymo's Autonomous Car Case Against Uber

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
judge says there s no smoking gun in waymo s autonomous car case against uber

The U.S. judge hearing Alphabet and Waymo’s case against Uber Technologies over pilfered trade secrets stated Wednesday that the inquest lacked clear evidence of any wrongdoing — making his decision on whether to issue an injunction against the ride-hailing service a difficult one.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup — who has already proven himself a no-nonsense individual — explained while there was undisputed proof engineer Anthony Levandowski had downloaded 9.7 gigabytes of company files prior to leaving Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous vehicle program, there wasn’t enough to indicate he conspired directly with Uber to share those trade secrets.

With nearly the entirety of the case revolving around that singular incident, this is a major problem for Waymo.

Levandowski has declined to answer questions throughout the deposition, citing his constitutional rights against any self incrimination. However, Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven continues to assert the company’s belief that Uber and Levandowski have been conspiring together for over a year — prior to its purchase of his autonomous trucking business, Otto. According to Reuters, Verhoeven has also accused Uber of withholding thousands of pertinent documents on the erroneous grounds that they are confidential legal documents.

“I’ve given you lots of discovery, and so far you don’t have any smoking gun,” Alsup said on the matter.

Waymo attorneys have used Levandowski’s payment of 5.3 million restricted stock units of Uber — equivalent to $250 million at the time — as evidence. Uber maintains that the stock is directly connected to its acquisition of Otto in August of 2016, and backdating the starting date to January allowed Otto to be included within Uber’s vesting schedule.

Judge Alsup did not appear to see this as an issue. “So what? That’s a lot of money I guess, but why wouldn’t he get a lot of money?” he asked.

Waymo’s legal council claimed it was circumstantial evidence of intent. “He’s getting awarded stock by Uber when he’s supposedly starting his own company,” Verhoeven responded.

However, Uber’s attorney assured the court that they had not found a single instance of Waymo’s documents in their client’s systems after spending 6,000 hours of work. While Alsup commended their efforts, he also stated that the withheld files over Uber’s acquisition of Otto are likely a “treasure trove” of information and the deciding factor of how the case proceeds.

The judge explained he is still deciding if Uber has improperly withheld those documents and is still considering whether to send Waymo’s trade secret claims into arbitration.

[Image: United States District Court, Northern District of California]

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  • Jeoff Jeoff on May 04, 2017

    If you buy stolen goods, you can't keep them. There is little doubt that he stole tons of information from google. And there is little doubt that Uber received some of that information, when they bought his company. Shouldn't the question be how much of the stolen information did Uber get, instead of whether or not they knew he stole it? (if they knew, or had a strong reason to believe he stole it, that would be much worse).

  • Ect Ect on May 04, 2017

    As I understand it, this is only a hearing of Waymo's application for a preliminary injunction, not the actual trial. To succeed, they have to show irreparable damage if the injunction is refused, and that they have an overwhelming prospect of success in the main action - which is often difficult to do. When the main action comes to trial, Waymo only needs to prove its case on a balance of probabilities, which is a much lower standard. And I believe that the presiding judge (and jury, if there is one)in a civil trial can draw inferences from Levandowski’s taking the Fifth on the questions directed to him. And by the way, what was there in Otto that could possibly justify a purchase price in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Analoggrotto By the time any of Hyundai's Japanese competitors were this size and age, they produced iconic vehicles which are now highly desirable and going for good money used. But Hyundai/Kia have nothing to this point that anyone will care about in the future. Those 20k over MSRP Tellurides? Worn out junk sitting at the used car lot, worn beyond their actual age. Hyundai/Kia has not had anything comparable to the significance of CVCC, 240Z, Supra, Celica, AE86, RX-(7), 2000GT, Skyline, GT-R, WRX, Evo, Preludio, CRX, Si, Land Cruiser, NSX etc. All of this in those years where Detroiters and Teutonic prejudiced elitists were openly bashing the Japanese with racist derogatory language. Tiger Woods running off the road in a Genesis didn't open up a moment, and the Genesis Sedan featuring in Inception didn't matter any more than the Lincoln MKS showing up for a moment in Dark Knight. Hyundai/Kia are too busy attempting to re-invent others' history for themselves. But hey, they have to start somewhere and the N74 is very cool looking. Hyundai/Kia's biggest fans are auto Journalists who for almost 2 decades have been hyping them up to deafening volumes contributing further distrust in any media.
  • Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.
  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)