Uber settles with Google in tech theft lawsuit

Uber settles with Google in tech theft lawsuit

Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to give Waymo about $245 million in closely held stock to cut short a trade-secret theft trial, ending a high-stakes conflict that already cost the ride-hailing giant its top driverless auto engineer and threatened to further embarrass the company.

"Waymo had already achieved most of what it needed, and Uber, with a fundamental change in management, no longer had the emotional investment that would justify carrying on the fight", said Jim Pooley, a trade-secrets expert who has followed the case.

"We agree that Uber's acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently", Uber said in its statement. Waymo had previously estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion, which Uber rejected.

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo's technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement, which was approved by Judge William Alsup as he dismissed the case.

For Waymo, the settlement protects the technology that has vaulted it into the early lead in the self-driving vehicle market and provides a measure of personal vindication for Google co-founder Larry Page, who is now CEO of Alphabet Inc., the parent of both Waymo and Google.

"We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology", the statement said.

At the center of the dispute between the two giants are the LIDAR systems, which are laser sensors that allow a vehicle to detect cars, pedestrians or other obstacles around it.

Waymo called multiple witnesses to the stand in an attempt to establish that Levandowski successfully stole 14,000 confidential files relating to the design of self-driving cars from Google and that Uber knew he was tainted with troves of proprietary information after he left Google.

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Waymo alleged that Levandowski heisted its technology and took it to Uber via a startup he founded and which Uber purchased a few months later for $680 million. "He sort of was a little angsty and said, 'Why are you doing my thing?'" Kalanick recalled. The texts included snippets such as "second place is first looser (sic)", "burn the village", and a link to a video clip from the 1987 film "Wall Street" featuring a character hailing the virtues of unbridled greed.

Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as CEO a year ago, partly because of concerns about Waymo's lawsuit.

"My job as Uber's CEO is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past", he said.

The settlement comes with Uber seeking to turn the page following a series of scandals over alleged misconduct and a cut-throat workplace culture, as new chief executive Khosrowshahi strives to prepare for a stock market debut in 2019.

"I've told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber's innovation and experience in self-driving technology".

Meanwhile, the proceedings also highlighted correspondence from within Alphabet that showed that the company was fretful about as it bled talent and faced new competition.

"While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward", Khosrowshahi wrote. Uber has plans to sell stock to the public sometime next year.

The sector also includes most major automakers, technology platforms and ride services such as Lyft.