Alphabet's Waymo sues Uber over theft and replication of key LiDAR component

Otto's self-driving truck system during on-road testing earlier this year in the U.S. Southwest

Otto's self-driving truck system during on-road testing earlier this year in the U.S. Southwest

In a lengthy Medium post announcing the suit, the company's spokespeople alleged that a former project manager, Anthony Levandowski, stole thousands of proprietary files before leaving to start his own self-driving auto startup, Otto. "But we believe that competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions", the Waymo team said in a Medium post announcing the suit, which names both Uber and Otto, a startup owned by the ride-hailing company, as defendants.

"Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn't make this decision lightly", Weymo said in a statement regarding its lawsuit. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, can essentially help an autonomous auto map its surroundings. Among those files were the company's design data for its LiDAR system. To gain access to Waymo's design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. The situation is said to have come to light when Waymo employees were "inadvertently" copied into an e-mail sent by a hardware company building devices for Uber. The configuration and specifications of our LiDAR sensors are unique to Waymo.

According to The New York Times, the court filing said that the former Waymo manager illegally downloaded 14,000 files onto an external hard drive a month before departing to start his own self-driving vehicle firm Otto.

Recently, Waymo stated that it received an email from one of its LiDAR suppliers and in the email, by coincidence, included Uber's design of a LiDAR circuit board. Waymo says it has evidence that the employee, Anthony Levandowski, then tried to cover his tracks by reformatting his storage. The GOOGL company claims this was an organized act to steal its trade secrets and intellectual property. Otto's LiDAR system was a key driver in Uber's acquisition of the company.

Waymo wants California courts to block Uber and Otto from using the technology it claims was stolen while Uber vows to check into the allegations.

"We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully", Uber stated late Thursday.

Waymo has sued and is seeking damages from Uber as well as Otto for allegedly stealing trade secrets.

Additionally, Waymo says that they have found out that prior to Levandowski's resignation, he downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files including designs of the company's LiDAR and circuit board.

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