Uber fires back at Google spinoff in self-driving auto case

Uber fires back at Google spinoff in self-driving auto case

Uber has said its self-driving sensor technology is "fundamentally different" from that of Waymo, the driverless auto division of Google's parent Alphabet. Instead, Uber agreed to dig deeper into its computer servers to look for files that the ride-hailing company's lawyer said haven't been found. Uber also agreed to interview employees to help find the files.

Six weeks after being sued by Alphabet (GOOG -0.3%, GOOGL -0.3%) self-driving auto unit Waymo, Uber (Private:UBER) is going public with its defense, calling Waymo's action a "misfire".

Uber has said claims it used self-driving technology stolen from Google were "demonstrably false".

"Waymo's injunction motion is a misfire", Angela Padilla, associate general counsel at Uber, said in a prepared statement. Waymo is accusing Google of using their driverless vehicle technologies obtained from an ex-Google employee that is now working in Uber. This technology, known in the industry as LiDAR, measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate three-dimensional map of the world around the auto.

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Waymo's lawsuit centers around LiDAR - the system of lasers that autonomous vehicles use to "see" the world - and the actions of Anthony Levandowski, a longtime Google engineer and pioneer in the field of self-driving cars.

But Uber countered saying its lidar design has a four-lens design while Waymo only uses one lens.

"Waymo could not be more wrong, and Uber's design could not be more different", Uber's lawyers wrote in their rebuttal to the allegations. In its original suit, filed in February, Waymo claimed that an employee inadvertently received an email from Otto that showed "what purported to be an Otto circuit board that bore a striking resemblance to - and shared several unique characteristics with - Waymo's highly confidential current-generation" It had a "striking resemblance" because Levandowski's allegedly stolen files included Waymo's LiDAR design. The company is testing self-driving cars in San Francisco, Arizona and Pittsburgh.

As a punishment, Waymo asked Alsup to conclude Uber was using downloaded files to develop its driverless auto program. Waymo claims those files contained information about its proprietary LiDAR sensors.

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Uber also provided testimony from another employee who joined Otto after leaving Waymo, Sameer Kshirsagar, who's also named in Waymo's suit.

"Uber's assertion that they've never touched the 14,000 stolen files is disingenuous at best, given their refusal to look in the most obvious place: the computers and devices owned by the head of their self-driving program", a spokesperson for Waymo said in a statement.

At a recent court hearing, held in private but leaked to the press, Mr Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, a constitutional clause that allows United States citizens to resist any request to share information that could put them at risk of self-incrimination. An injunction "would impede Uber's efforts to remain a viable business" and potentially even put the public in danger because self-driving cars are safer, the company warned in its court filing. The problem about this is, at that time, Levandowski was still under the employment contract of Waymo. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. was brought in to investigate accusations of systemic gender discrimination and cover-ups at Uber.

According to Tech Crunch, Google has further accused Levandowski of meeting up with some Uber executives in January 2016. Uber says it began developing its LIDAR technology nearly a year before Levandowski was hired at Uber.

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Uber's defense team suggested Friday that Google and Waymo are turning to the courts to slow down a competitor's progress.

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