Tech

Uber vs. Waymo Trial Over Self-Driving Car Tech Starts Today

Uber vs. Waymo Trial Over Self-Driving Car Tech Starts Today

San Francisco - A billion-dollar trial pitting Alphabet-owned autonomous driving unit Waymo against Uber starts on Monday in what could be a blockbuster case over alleged theft of trade secrets. In Uber's, Waymo filed a threadbare lawsuit because it was losing engineers to Uber and other companies and wanted to hobble its rival.

But Uber also had a chance to lay out its own theory of the case.

"Internal documents indicate that Mr. Kalanick wanted to find 'cheat codes, ' " Verhoeven told the jury in his opening statement. "Uber regrets ever bringing Anthony Levandowski on board", he said.

"Figuring out what's on one side of the line and what's on other side is incredibly complicated", she said.

"The only thing that's not OK is trade secrets", he said.

Trade secrets are defined as valuable information that is not generally known and is protected by the company from getting out, such as the Coca-Cola recipe. The question of whether that can be considered theft of intellectual property is at the heart of what jurors will have to decide. Such sensors are critical in the operation of autonomous vehicles. The crux of Uber's defence will rely on it proving that it never used those stolen trade secrets in its own LiDAR systems.

The hotly anticipated trial between Waymo and Uber began on Monday with Waymo's lawyer dragging out the embarrassing elements of Uber's "hustle-hard" culture.

The breakup between Uber and Alphabet, which still has a stake in the ride-hailing company, has taken years to get even this far.

It is a position that is fitting with the start-up spirit of Silicon Valley, where engineers move freely from company to company, taking what they know with them.

The freedom to move between competing companies has always been a source of conflict in the technology sector, and Alsup noted at a pretrial hearing that "Silicon Valley and the rest of the technical world out there in the United States is very interested to know how we balance these competing factors here".

Travis Kalanick
Uber vs. Waymo Trial Over Self-Driving Car Tech Starts Today

He cited a hypothetical example of an engineer who learnt the best way of doing something through trial and error. "Engineers in California and the rest of America are free to go from one job to another", Carmody said, implying that a finding against Uber could change that. "I think the answer has to be no", the judge said.

The jury trial should last for a couple of weeks, with a verdict expected before the end of February.

Besides, Uber can point out that it did not benefit from any potential trade secrets because autonomous vehicles are still in development.

Uber said it had fired the engineer last May, claiming he had refused to hand over information requested of him for Uber's defence.

The Uber lawyer pointed to one email shown in court in which the former head of Google's auto unit complained that "we have stopped playing to win" and noting that Uber "is acquiring the people I suggested we hire 1.5 years ago". "This case is about defendant Uber making a decision that it had to develop this technology for its business model to survive". His willingness to bend the rules seems extreme even by Silicon Valley's standards. Like Waymo, Google is owned by Alphabet Inc., which led a $1 billion investment in Uber rival Lyft previous year.

Kalanick has kept a low profile since leaving Uber.

The U.S. Justice Department opened a criminal investigation a few months after Waymo filed its lawsuit, and Levandowski asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination during the evidence-gathering phase leading up to the trial.

Although he is expected to take the stand in this case, it's unlikely that Levandowski will say much.

Meanwhile, Uber's attorney, Bill Carmody, argued that it was Google, not Uber, that was scrambling to catch up on self-driving cars.

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