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Uber extends an olive branch to Waymo as it settles trade secret lawsuit

Uber Waymo lawsuit
One of the greatest tech lawsuits of the 21st century has come to a close. Ridesharing giant Uber recently reached a settlement deal with Waymo, Google’s sister company in charge of developing autonomous technology for cars. Waymo sued Uber a year ago to prove its rival stole intellectual property through one of its employees, Anthony Levandowski.

CNBC reports Uber agreed to pay Waymo a 0.34-percent equity stake. Investors value Uber at about $72 billion, meaning Waymo will receive approximately $245 million. The decision ends a year-old legal conflict that could have lasted for many more months.

Uber proposed the settlement to end the costly and time-consuming lawsuit and avoid a potentially embarrassing jury verdict. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stressed it’s not an admission of wrongdoing, though he regrets how his predecessors (namely founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick) handled the lawsuit.

“We agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently,” he wrote, addressing Alphabet and referring to the company Levandowski founded. “We do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology.”

The lawsuit focused on 14,000 digital files Levandowski allegedly downloaded before leaving his position at Google in January 2016. He founded Otto the following May and sold the company to Uber in August. Waymo’s lawyers argued it was a clever cover-up to poach Levandowski; Uber planned on buying Otto — along with Waymo’s allegedly stolen files — before the firm even existed.

“While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it,” Khosrowshahi concluded.

With the lawsuit behind it, Uber will continue to work on developing and deploying its self-driving technology. Its reputation has taken a hit but it remains one of the leaders in the field. The ride-sharing firm operates pilot programs in Pennsylvania and in Arizona, and its fleet of over 200 self-driving prototypes has racked up more than two million miles on public roads. Last year, Uber pledged to purchase “tens of thousands” of Volvo SUVs between 2019 and 2021 and convert them into autonomous cars.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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