Thursday, 19 April, 2018

Uber agrees to $245m payout to settle Waymo dispute

Uber Waymo Uber to pay $245 million to settle Google's Waymo theft allegations
Orlando Vargas | 11 February, 2018, 10:09

Uber has settled a lawsuit alleging that it ripped off self-driving auto technology from Google's autonomous vehicle division.

Uber and Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet / Google that specializes in autonomous auto technologies, reached an amicable agreement ending accusations of theft of patents made by the latter against the former.

Uber's chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said that the company does not believe it received any trade secrets from Waymo, and that it is taking steps to ensure that its research is unique to work carried out internally.

One of Waymo's former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, reportedly, according to Waymo, stole at the end of 2015 thousands of confidential documents before founding his own startup, Otto, later bought by Uber in the summer of 2016. That engineer, Anthony Levandowski, subsequently went to work for Uber, and was later fired when he declined to answer questions about the theft charges, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The goal was not only to "leapfrog" Google in the race to build self-driving cars, Waymo lawyers alleged, but also to keep Uber alive.

Levandowski apologized to Uber employees for any distraction arising from the clash with Google.

Waymo claimed some $ 2 billion from Uber, which wants to establish itself as a leading player in the transformation of the auto industry. The settlement gives Alphabet an additional 0.34 percent of Uber's outstanding stock, based on an investment round that placed the company's market value at $72 billion. It was an early investor in Uber and, although it sold some of its stock late a year ago, it still holds a significant stake in Uber.

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Uber and its ride-hailing service had already been tarnished by the company's acknowledgement of rampant sexual harassment within its ranks, a yearlong cover-up of a major computer break-in, and the use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators.

In pretrial evidence gathering, a Waymo expert witness valued the alleged theft at almost $2 billion. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup had refused to allow Waymo to use that figure in the trial. The former Expedia CEO came to the company last August with a long list of issues to sort out, this lawsuit being one of the most important.

Kalanick released a statement in which he was not almost as conciliatory as the man who succeeded him in Uber's top job. Although the company insists it did not take any Waymo trade secrets, Khosrowshahi said in a statement that he regretted the events that led to the litigation.

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 CEO, Travis Kalanick, and a former Google engineer.

Waymo said in a statement: "We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo's intellectual property now and into the future". "We are committed to working with Uber to ensure that each company develops its own technologies, which means that no proprietary information belonging to Waymo should be included in Uber's software", she added.

© 2018 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. But he is just as excited, if not more so, as the previous regime about the potential of self-driving cars.

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