Waymo, Lyft to team up on self-driving vehicles

Xavier Trudeau
Mai 16, 2017

Embattled engineer Anthony Levandowski must be removed from any work relating to LiDAR, a key technology involved in self-driving cars, following a legal suit filed against Uber by rival Waymo.

Alsup stopped short of issuing a broader order that may have stalled Uber's program for the duration of the court battle, saying he didn't find clear evidence of wrongdoing by the ride-hailing company. There are also bad relations between Uber and Waymo. The auto maker has built Chrysler Pacifica minivans for Waymo, which equipped them with the sensors and radar necessary to pilot the vehicle on its own. "Misuse of that treasure trove remains an ever-present danger wholly at his whim".

Uber's self-driving program will live to drive another day.

Alsup ordered Uber to prevent Levandowski and all other employees from using the materials and return them to Waymo by May 31.

On Monday Waymo signed a deal with Lyft, Uber's main United States competitor, to test its self-driving technology. "Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions", Waymo spokesman Johnny Luu said.

The ruling by District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco Monday was mainly a victory for Waymo, the autonomous auto unit spun off from Google, even though the judge refused to order a halt to Uber's autonomous vehicle research as Waymo had requested, the experts said. Waymo claims that Levandowski conspired with Uber to steal thousands of autonomous-vehicle research files before he left Google on his way to joining Uber.

Uber has denied wrongdoing and said it plans to defend itself in court. "We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from the ground up".

Alsup referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation of possible trade secret theft on Thursday, when the ruling was released under seal.

But the judge scolded Waymo for being "overbroad" in what it says are 121 trade secrets involved in the case. Along with this, the company will also incur financial losses if the case turns out to be in Waymo's favor.

Waymo is widely seen as the global leader in the software needed to power a self-driving auto. The company went on to poach dozens of researchers and engineers from Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center, and in 2016 and 2017 it launched autonomous vehicle pilots in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Tempe, Arizona. According to a statement by Lyft representative, the aim is to collaborate with Waymo in order to launch self-driving vehicles. "I've given you lots of discovery and so far you don't have a smoking gun", Alsup said. Those documents were unsealed Monday morning.

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