Waymo, Uber steer themselves to surprise settlement

Waymo, Uber steer themselves to surprise settlement

Waymo, Uber steer themselves to surprise settlement

Waymo filed its lawsuit almost a year ago, adding to Uber's woes with allegations of a bold high-tech heist orchestrated by its former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, and a former Google engineer.

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo's technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement, which was approved by Judge William Alsup as he dismissed the case. Uber denied using any Google technology to build a fleet of self-driving cars.

Uber had on Monday offered to settle the case for US$490 million just before the start of the trial, but that agreement did not provide Waymo with enough assurances that its technology would not be improperly used, two people familiar with the thinking of both parties in the lawsuit said.

The payment, to be made in Uber's stock, is a fraction of the almost US$2 billion in damages that a Waymo expert had estimated Uber's alleged theft had caused, but US District Judge William Alsup refused to allow Waymo to use that figure in the trial. Uber rejected those terms as non-starters.

After four days of testimony, Waymo had presented little public evidence that Uber used Waymo's trade secrets.

Not long after Thursday's trial proceedings ended, the top lawyers from both companies, Uber's Tony West and Waymo's Kevin Vosen, met to hammer out an agreement.

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"In doing so, I want to express my regret for the actions that led me to write this letter", he also added.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a separate statement that "while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber ... we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work".

Lidar is a light-based sensor crucial to autonomous driving.

Elizabeth Rowe, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, analysed about 150 trade secret verdicts through 2014 and said $245 million would rank as the second highest.

"We hired Anthony because we felt that he was incredibly visionary, a very good technologist, and he was also very charming", Kalanick said, noting that the goal was to "make driverless cars a reality".

"Their risks would have gone up on many levels", Ms. Rowe said.

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Its legal battle with Waymo may be over, but the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal probe into Uber's alleged theft of trade secrets. Mr. Levandowski has never publicly addressed the allegations of taking the documents and law enforcement has not charged anyone with their theft.

The Waymo lawsuit was the most pressing legal battle for Uber, but only one item in a long list of controversies that has dogged the company for the previous year.

According to Kalanick's testimony, Page had become "very upset" in 2015 when he learned Uber had hired robotics engineers from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh for its own self-driving vehicle division.

Uber now has small pilots in Tempe, Arizona, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Levandowski, who was on the list as a possible witness, left Google for his own startup called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber.

Stock in the privately held Uber would be transferred immediately to Alphabet, which was an early Uber investor and remains as one of its largest shareholders. SoftBank bought the majority of its stake at about a 30% discount from Uber's valuation. "We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology", a spokesperson said.

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"We believe this deal will protect Waymo's intellectual property", a spokeswoman said Friday.

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