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Judge Wants More Evidence in Uber Self-Driving Car Dispute

15 Mai 2017

Instead, the self-driving wing of Google/ Alphabet came prepared to play hardball, dishing out some completely wild allegations against its former employee Anthony Levandowski and his new employer, Uber. Uber and Google warring over a trade secret theft case is a touchstone moment for the quickly rising self-driving industry, because whichever wins stands to have a leg up in that race.

In a court hearing, Waymo's lawyers stressed that Otto was never meant to operate as a real business but rather serve as a waypoint for Levandowski on his way to Uber. If the court rules against Uber, it could mean a premature end to the company's autonomous vehicle project.

Verhoeven said it was circumstantial evidence of bad intent by Levandowski and Uber.

Even though the judge is not expected to rule the case immediately on Wednesday, the proceedings today may hint at which way he is leaning.

"They're really trying to be cute here", Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez said. Of course it's not all that simple - there's another company in between Waymo and Uber, but Google suggests that the company in question was created only to act as a shell to cover Levandowki's tracks. "We're not hiding anything, your honor".

That was clear in a federal courthouse in San Francisco on Wednesday as the two companies clashed at a crucial hearing in a case that could halt the progress of Uber's autonomous-vehicle research efforts.

But for Waymo to succeed in its case, which is against Uber, not Levandowski, it needs to prove that Uber knew Levandowski stole the Waymo documents.

Mr. Levandowski repeatedly has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in the case and declined to comment or produce documents. He also said Uber had determined at some point that Levandowski was "radioactive" and had taken steps to insulate itself from any repercussions he might face.

Uber has said Waymo's claims are false, and in a court filing called the preliminary injunction motion "a misfire".

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"The best thing to do would be to look at his laptop and get one of those computer scientists to see what files he accessed", said Alsup.

Alsup, however, isn't sure if Uber had actually used Waymo's trade secrets.

Waymo alleges that Uber used details about its proprietary LiDAR technology, which allows self-driving cars to "see" what's around them and navigate, to develop their own.

Levandowski started the company Otto not long after he left Google.

Global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies is rethinking its auto leasing strategy in India, its second-biggest market, as drivers have returned dozens of leased cars early.

While U.S. District Judge William Alsup said today that it's "undisputed" that Uber's Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents prior to departing the Mountain View company, he's not convinced that Levandowski and Uber conspired in stealing said intellectual property. The judge still considered that a viable option, he said on Wednesday. "I've already given you lots of time for discovery, and you don't seem to have a smoking gun", he said to Waymo's lawyers.

At stake in court is both companies' progress in developing technology which court documents described as being potentially as significant as the invention of the automobile itself.

Waymo's also pointing to some shady email exchanges between Uber executives allegedly discussing a meeting with Lev and the formation of a new company, mysteriously titled, "NewCo".

Judge Wants More Evidence in Uber Self-Driving Car Dispute