Update – Feb. 25: Business Insider received a statement from Uber, claiming that Waymo’s lawsuit was “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court.”
Original story: Waymo, the car division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming it has stolen some of its self-driving technology. The suit is based in part on Uber’s purchase of a startup called Otto in 2016. That company was founded by Anthony Levandowski, who previously worked at Waymo as the head of its self-driving division.
In a post on its Medium page, the Waymo team claims it had developed its own custom LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system for its self-driving cars. It uses laser beams that bounce off any surrounding objects to help a self-driving car create a full 3D map of the world.
According to Waymo, it recently received an email attachment that showed Otto’s own LiDAR system. However, it claims that Otto’s design looked very much like the custom system that Waymo has developed. Waymo said it later found that Levandowski had taken over 14,000 files from the company before he left to found Otto.
Waymo claims the stolen files include “highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board”. The lawsuit also claims other former, but not named, Waymo employees who joined Otto also took a number of files from the company.
Waymo claims that these actions were part of a plan by Otto, now owned by Uber, to steal the company’s property. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop Uber from using these stolen files and have them returned to Waymo, along with a demand that Otto stop using any patents owned by Waymo. So far, Uber has yet to respond to this lawsuit.