Google’s Waymo self-driving unit has fired the first shot in an autonomous vehicle war with Uber and Otto, suing the ride-hailing service for allegedly stealing trade secrets.
In a lawsuit filed in Californian federal court, Waymo says that former engineer Anthony Levandownski (who subsequently founded Otto) stole 14,000 confident documents from Google relating to self-driving vehicle technologies.
Waymo alleges that Levandownski installed specialized software onto his Google-issued laptop and downloaded 9.7 GB of “Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation”. The tech-giant then says that Levandownski transferred the files to an external drive and reformatted the laptop.
Waymo also says that other former employees who have since moved to Uber and Otto downloaded confidential information regarding its LiDAR system.
In the complaint, Waymo says that it discovered the alleged theft after being mistakenly CC’d in an email sent from a LiDAR component vendor to Uber. It claims that the email included machine drawings of Uber’s LiDAR circuit board and that it “bears a striking resemblance to Waymo’s own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets.”
Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle arm is seeking an injunction to stop the misappropriation of its designs, for all trade secret information to be returned and for Uber and Otto to cease infringing its patents.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Uber said “We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully.”
The entire complaint can be found here.