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Uber Must Return Stolen Waymo Files, Can Continue Self-driving Work: Judge

17 May 2017
Uber Must Return Stolen Waymo Files, Can Continue Self-driving Work: Judge

In the ride-hailing battle between Lyft and Uber, Lyft is generally perceived as the more driver-friendly company.

The unexpected partnership promises "pilot projects and product development efforts", according to The New York Times, which first reported the new tie-up. The probe, combined with other legal and image woes, will reduce Uber's value and in the worst case could threaten the San Francisco company's existence if investors leave, criminal charges bring huge fines and legal action stalls autonomous auto research, legal experts have said.

By way of summary, this order finds plaintiff Waymo LLC has shown compelling evidence that its former star engineer, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files from Waymo immediately before leaving his employment there.

"The bottom line is the evidence indicates that Uber hired Levandowski even though it knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files likely containing Waymo's intellectual property", Alsup wrote.

In February Waymo filed a lawsuit in San Francisco, claiming that Uber and Otto had stolen mission-critical lidar technology worth half a billion dollars, demanding action to stop further misuse of its trade secrets, a jury trial and "treble" damages for patent infringement.

CIOL Uber may continue self-driving work but Levandowski barred from LiDAR

"Waymo holds today's best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world's best transportation", a Lyft spokeswoman said.

Waymo has alleged that Levandowski stole trade secrets and used them to found his own self-driving startup, which Uber then bought.

It seems obvious Lyft wants to keep all of their options open when it comes to self-driving vehicles, and not just put all of their eggs in one basket. Still, this decision and the judge's referral of the case on Thursday to federal prosecutors for their review should give Uber cause for worry, said James Pooley, a lawyer at Orrick in Menlo Park, California.

The key to understand Lyft's motive here is that "Waymo's technology is more advanced than GM/Cruise's", Demler noted. Introducing a handful of self-driving cars will have an impact on overall traffic conditions, that much has been determined already.

Waymo said on Monday it welcomed the ruling. On the other hand, the partnership of the two companies is expected to have some implications on the self-driving vehicle project of another company - Uber.