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Silicon Valley Scandal: Waymo and Uber Square Off in Court

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Stolen secrets and shady deals come to light in court between Waymo and Uber.

Waymo and Uber are finally having their day in court, and it’s not pretty.

The two tech giants (Waymo is the self-driving tech division from Alphabet/Google) are finally squaring off in what is probably the most talked-about controversy in Silicon Valley, especially when it comes to the future of car tech and autonomous driving.

With the advent of mass producing self-driving tech, companies like Uber have been sprouting up with their autonomous take left and right. Even major car brands like Ford and GM are going all in on developing self-driving tech. And with this Wild West-like expansion there was bound to be drama.

The drama around this specific trial, as detailed by Ars Technica, centers on shady deals and dirty little secrets on both sides. As the technology itself grows and matures, ideation is king, and companies are seemingly doing anything they can to steal formulas.

Waymo Pacifica

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For a little background, the case focuses on Anthony Levandowski, a self-driving car tech engineer who used to work at Google. He worked in the brand’s autonomous car division developing Lidar technology, the system that provides vision for self-driving cars.

In January of 2016 Levandowski left Google to form Otto, a self-driving truck company. But in the weeks leading up to his departure, Levandowski downloaded 14,000 pages of Waymo documents related to its self-driving car technology.

Following his leaving Waymo, his new company, Otto, was acquired by Uber. Waymo saw that something was fishy when a Lidar component supplier inadvertently attached machine drawings of what was said to be Uber’s Lidar circuit board in an email. The design was uncannily similar to a Waymo design.

It was revealed in court that Levandowski was meeting with Uber officials before it bought his new company. Emails are set to be presented in the case and will show that Uber was poaching the engineer to get to Waymo’s intellectual property, including one that will show a mention of “laser is the secret sauce.”

The case is expected to go on for another two weeks. An assortment of people in the who’s-who in Silicon Valley are expected to be witnesses as well. Discussions over the specific trade secrets in questions are set to be held in closed courtroom sessions, but with the information made public the world is bearing witness to the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley.

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