Uber’s legal woes go on with fresh lawsuit

Waymo, the self-driving car company owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, has filed a suit against Uber, accusing it of stealing designs.

It took Alphabet’s Waymo seven years to design and build a laser-scanning system to guide its self-driving cars. Uber allegedly did it in nine months. Waymo claims that was possible because a former employee stole the designs and technology and started a new company.

The complaint intensifies Alphabet’s rivalry with Uber, one of the Internet giant’s largest investments, and reflects an escalating talent war in the burgeoning autonomous-driving arena as tech and auto companies alike compete for skilled engineers.

Waymo accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in August, of lifting technical information from Google’s autonomous car project, calling it a “calculated theft” of Alphabet’s technology.

“We take allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully,”’ an Uber spokeswoman said.

Waymo said in the complaint: “Fair competition spurs new technical innovation, but what has happened here is not fair competition. Instead, Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time, and expense of independently developing their own technology.”

Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber lidar circuit board that had a “striking resemblance” to Waymo’s design, according to the complaint.

Waymo’s lawsuit is ill-timed for Uber, already in crisis over allegations of sexual harassment and recently beset by customer losses due to ties to President Donald Trump. Uber has set up a commission led by Eric Holder to probe a former developer’s allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

- Bloomberg


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