Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., said it welcomed the order stopping Uber from using "stolen documents containing trade secrets developed by Waymo through years of research".
"To repeat, as far as the record shows, Levandowski remains in possession of over 14,000 confidential files from Waymo, at least some of which likely contain Waymo's trade secrets", Alsup wrote.
Judge Alsup ordered Uber to prevent Levandowski from using the downloaded materials and return them to Waymo by May 31, and ordered Levandowski to be removed from any Lidar work at Uber. The Judge also says evidence shows that before he left Waymo, Levandowski and Uber planned for Uber to acquire a company formed by Levandowski.
Uber will be able to continue working on its self-driving auto technology, the judge said, but embattled engineer Anthony Levandowski must be removed from any work relating to a key technology called LIDAR, which helps cars "see".
A spokesperson for Uber said, "We are pleased with the court's ruling that Uber can continue building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology, including our innovation around LIDAR".
"Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions", Johnny Luu, a Waymo spokesman, said in a statement. After applying to be a part of the program online, approved applicants will be shuttled around town in a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan outfitted with Waymo's autonomous drive system.
Crucially for Uber, the ruling did not shut down its self-driving vehicle project.
The only problem with Waymo's technology had been how to commercialize and deploy it, she said, and the Lyft partnership may help solve that.
Though it now feels as if every automaker, auto parts supplier, ride-sharing service provider and his algorithm-writing cousin has an autonomous driving strategy in place, Alphabet/Google's (GOOGL) Waymo unit and Tesla Motors (TSLA) still seem to be ahead of the pack when it comes to actually bringing a vehicle that can drive itself to market.
At stake for Uber is nothing less than the company's own future, with Uber execs staking huge bets and investments on self-driving cars being the next big technological breakthrough for the company and automotive industry.
On Thursday, Alsup asked federal prosecutors to investigate Uber's self-driving program for potential theft of trade secrets.
Waymo claims that in October 2015, Levandowski and Uber hatched a plan for him to steal confidential information.
Alsup wrote, "Waymo's supposed trade secret is nothing more than Optics 101" therefore even a limited injunction would be unfair for Uber. This pairing means Waymo is closer to moving its self-driving cars from the research stage to a commercial market.
Talks on the Waymo and Lyft collaboration between began last summer, a person familiar with the situation said. As far as we can see, Levandowski will continue to have a position at Uber.