Google’s Self-Driving Car Company Is Suing Uber For Allegedly Stealing Laser Sensor Tech

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Google’s self-driving car group, Waymo, is suing Uber for allegedly stealing data and using it to further its autonomous vehicle development.

“Fair competition spurs new technical innovation, but what has happened here is not fair competition,” the official lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco reads. “Instead, Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time, and expense of independently developing their own technology.”

The legal complaint claims that a team of ex-Google engineers stole the company’s blueprint for the LiDAR sensor, which helps a vehicle map the environment around it. (RELATED: ‘Grand Theft Auto’ And Other Video Games May Be Key To Reducing Roadway Deaths)

“Misappropriating this technology is akin to stealing a secret recipe from a beverage company,” Waymo wrote in an official blog post announcing the lawsuit.

Waymo says it mistakenly received an email from one of its suppliers specializing in LiDAR with attachments of machine drawings that were marked as Uber’s design, but were very similar to it’s own “unique LiDAR design.”

It claims that Anthony Levandowski, one of the original members of Google’s self-driving car initiative, “downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems” roughly six weeks prior to resigning from the company. Waymo also claims that he downloaded several files that include trade secrets and blueprints. (RELATED: Big Tech Always Ends Up With Big Lawsuits)

Levandowski is the founder of Otto, a startup focused on autonomous trucks that was purchased by Uber for $680 million. Both Uber and Otto are listed as defendants in the pending case. (RELATED: Uber, Anheuser-Busch Use Self-Driving Truck To Deliver 45,000 Cans Of ‘America’)

Waymo says it only learned of the alleged theft because it was accidentally sent the email that showed Uber’s LiDAR circuit board bearing “a striking resemblance” to its own designs.

This isn’t the first time a company has accused former employees of stealing precious, proprietary information. Tesla, the tech conglomerate, filed a lawsuit against a former executive, alleging the staff member took confidential data and tried to shepherd other employees towards another self-driving startup he was developing.

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