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article imageUber states it did not steal Google self-driving tech

By Tim Sandle     Apr 9, 2017 in Technology
San Fransisco - Uber calls claims it stole the self-driving LiDAR technology from Google spin-off company Waymo as 'demonstrably false.' Uber has sought to defend itself in a U.S. federal court filing.
The dispute between the two companies began in February 2017. Waymo filed a lawsuit claiming that a former employee, called Andrew Levandowski, stole 14,000 documents relating to a platform called LiDAR. This is a core technology used to guide autonomous vehicles. Levandowski, on leaving the Google spinoff company, went on to co-found a company called Otto, which was established to develop self-driving trucks. Otto was later acquired by Uber in 2016 for for $660 million. According to The Guardian, Waymo accused Uber of the “calculated theft” of its LiDAR technology.
With the supposed technology transfer, Waymo claims that Uber's developing self-driving cars are based on the LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology. Uber is currently running tests in different locations in the U.S., with the long-term aim of getting self-driving taxis onto the streets.
Technology fact:
LiDAR is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a laser light. The technology uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.
The San Francisco federal court case between Waymo and Uber began in April 2017. During the first week, Uber have sought to convince the judge that any injunction would be unfair. According to BBC News, Uber's chief lawyer, Angela Padilla, said: "There is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber's servers, and Waymo's assertion that our multi-lens LiDAR is the same as their single-lens LiDAR is clearly false." To this, Waymo argues that it has seen Uber blueprints which bear a similarity of its own technology.
The main thrust of Uber's defense is that it cannot be using Waymo technology because Uber is in fact lagging behind other companies who are developing autonomous driving vehicles. In addition, Uber states that its version of LiDAR uses four lenses, while Waymo’s uses one. Uber sttaes this is a fundamental difference which is sufficient to infer that their device is not based on misappropriated secrets. Uber instead accuses Waymo of seeking to stifle Uber's own innovations in the self-driving field. This is the basis of Uber's defense as filed to the court on April 7, 2017.
Technology fact:
An autonomous car (or self-driving car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Autonomous cars rely on a combination of methods to detect their surroundings. These include radar, laser light, GPS, odometry, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.
That Levandowski took 14,000 files does not appear to be in dispute. The cases centers on whether Levandowski, an Uber employee, showed the files to any person at Uber and whether any technology contained within the files has ended up inside Uber technology. During the hearing, Levandowski has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights (this allows U.S. citizens to resist any request to share information that could put them at risk of self-incrimination). Separately, as the New York Times reports, Waymo is pursuing arbitration with Mr. Levandowski and Otto’s other founder, Lior Ron.
How the case will progress is uncertain. William Alsup, the California federal judge who is overseeing the case, stated at one point during the hearing (according to Vox): "This is an extraordinary case."
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