Uber, Waymo Settle Autonomous Vehicle Technology Lawsuit

The lawsuit centered around Uber's acquisiton of Otto, an autonomous truck company started by a former Waymo employee. Photo: Uber

Uber, Waymo Settle Autonomous Vehicle Technology Lawsuit

Uber and Waymo have agreed to terms on a settlement in a lawsuit over alleged stolen autonomous vehicle technology that will give Waymo a stake in Uber and absolve the company of wrongdoing. The settlement came amid legal proceedings.

Waymo will reportedly receive a relatively small amount of equity in Uber equal to about $245 million, or 0.34% of Uber’s $72 billion value. The two companies will also work together to ensure that Waymo’s Lidar and software in no way directly influenced Uber’s own designs. Uber stated that while it does not believe it has stolen any trade secretes or used Waymo’s proprietary self-driving technology, it will cooperate with Waymo to ensure the Lidar and software represents the company’s own work.

“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,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber in a statement. “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.”

The lawsuit stems from an accusation last year by Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, alleging that certain trade secrets related to the company’s custom built Lidar (light detection and ranging) sensor technology were stolen by Uber employee Anthony Levandowski.

Levandowski worked for Waymo before leaving to start his own autonomous truck company Otto. Otto was purchased by Uber and Levandowski became a key figure in the company’s autonomous vehicle technology efforts.

As a result of the accusations, Levandowski was forced to step down from his position and was later fired by Uber. When ordered to testify in the lawsuit, he invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.

The trial finally began on Feb. 5 and ended quickly on Feb. 9, after a year of back and forth between the two companies.

“To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better,” said Khosrowshahi. “Of course, we are also competitors. And while we won’t agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.”

Related: Uber - Self-Driving Trucks Could Help Alleviate Driver Shortage