Waymo Claims Otto Stole Technology Secrets

Posted February 25, 2017

Waymo also included in its official complaint that numerous other former employees, now employed at Otto or Uber, also downloaded top secret files to use against the company.

The brains behind Uber's autonomous vehicle fleet come from Otto, a self-driving truck startup founded by former Google employees, which Uber bought for $680 million (£543m) past year.

As per Waymo's post, one of the most powerful part of their technology is the self-driving car's custom built LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging.

Among the evidence is an email sent by a supplier of lidar components that inadvertently copied a Waymo employee. This design bore a striking resemblance to the Waymo LiDAR design, created by hundreds of engineers at the company over thousands of hours.

"After downloading all of this confidential information regarding Waymo's LiDAR systems and other technology and while still a Waymo employee, Waymo is informed and believes that Mr. Levandowski attended meetings with high-level executives at Uber's headquarters in San Francisco on January 14, 2016", the lawsuit says. Back in December 2015, Levandowski installed specialized software on his Google-issued laptop to access the servers that stored self-driving auto data.

In a statement provided to Business Insider, Uber vehemently denies all of the allegations.

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Waymo is asking for an injunction against Otto and Uber to stop the misappropriation of its designs, and it is asking for the return of all trade secret information and for Otto to cease infringing on Waymo patents. Waymo also claims this work has driven down the cost of LiDAR dramatically and the configuration is unique to Waymo. Otto's LiDAR system was a key driver in Uber's acquisition of the company.

According to The New York Times, the court filing said that the former Waymo manager illegally downloaded 14,000 files onto an external hard drive a month before departing to start his own self-driving vehicle firm Otto.

Waymo said it chose to take action after it was "inadvertently" copied in on an email from a supplier which included drawings of an Otto circuit board which bore a "striking resemblance" to Waymo's own.

According to a Medium post, Waymo says they discovered that six weeks before his resignation, Levandowski downloaded all these highly confidential files and proprietary design files.

Levandowski then installed a new operating system on the company-issued laptop to reformat it.

The lawsuit claims that Uber acquired technology that was stolen from Waymo by a former employee.