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Uber throws former self-driving vehicle guru Andrew Levandowski to the wolves

Uber throws former self-driving vehicle guru Andrew Levandowski to the wolves

This escalated into a multibillion lawsuit for over $1.4 billion and a public apology.

Once upon a time, Levandowski was Uber's saviour to catch Google in the self-driving auto wars. Waymo is seeking damages and a permanent injunction to prevent Uber from using the alleged trade secrets in future AV developments.

The trial's commencement comes after Waymo filed its lawsuit nearly a year ago - an 11-month period has been marked by dozens of pretrial motions, surprising delays, and Uber's own internal strife and reorganization, including its CEO's resignation. "They took our technology in an effort to win this race at all costs".

Levandowski, regarded as a visionary in autonomous technology, is not a defendant in the case but is on Waymo's witness list.

Verhoeven compared Uber to the victor of 1980's women's Boston Marathon - the first of a handful of sports comparisons made during the arguments - who infamously hopped on the subway to finish in just over two and a half hours. Uber then bought Otto, which Waymo claims gave Uber access to pilfered Waymo trade secrets.

Alsup warned the jury at the beginning of the trial to be aware of the bluster from the attorneys in the room, whom he called "some of the best lawyers in the United States". Judge William Alsup, who's known for being tech savvy, allowed a closed session to discuss the very secrets so central to this case - including the proprietary methods Waymo uses to read raw data from laser sensors and turn that into rich imagery its cars can use to avoid obstacles and stop at stop signs.

Anthony Levandowski, then-head of Uber's self-driving program, speaks about their driverless vehicle in San Francisco, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. The allegations were sparked when former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski left Waymo to develop a self-driving truck company called Otto, which was acquired by Uber for $680 million in August 2016.




Uber Technologies Inc has spent much of the past year confronting and atoning for business practices adopted when co-founder Travis Kalanick ran the place.

Waymo alleges that Uber stole trade secrets for the lidar technology that is essential to preventing self-driving cars from bumping into one another-or pedestrians, buildings, or animals. At the center of it all is robotics engineer Anthony Levandowski, who worked under Alphabet's Google and abruptly left the company.

During hearings previous year, the judge said that Waymo "supplied a compelling record that Levandowski pilfered over 14,000 files from Waymo", and that Uber knew or should have known about the theft.

"I want to tell you right up front - it didn't happen", he said. "There is no conspiracy".

But the relationship ultimately failed to deliver what Uber wanted, the lawyer said.

To hammer home his point, Carmody displayed a slide from an internal Google presentation with the words, "What would it take to consume all of Uber's annual profits in 2025?" The Uber lawyer also had Krafcik confirm that he was unaware of Waymo explicitly telling employees leaving the firm what constituted trade secrets that couldn't be taken to a competitor. A Waymo attorney pressed Kalanick for his reaction to what he described as a surprise revelation that Levandowski 'had some disks and some content from Google. Uber ended up getting sued. According to reporters at the first day of the trial, Uber is downplaying Levandowski's role within the company, and Uber lawyer Bill Carmody said that the company "regrets ever bringing Levandowski on board". "For all this time at Uber, all Uber has to show for Anthony Levandowski is this lawsuit".

During jury selection on January 31, Uber, via an agreement with Waymo, sidestepped the question of whether it could find jurors in its hometown unbiased by media reports about Hell, Greyball, or Ripley, methods it employed under Kalanick to, respectively, deceive competitors, elude regulators, and stymie law enforcement. And observers say the result of the trial could have important ramifications for both the companies involved, as well as on the culture and workforce in Silicon Valley.

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