Waymo a part of Alphabet, which owns Google — filed a lawsuit Thursday against Uber, alleging that the ride-sharing service stole some of its autonomous-car secrets. Waymo claims a former employee may have stolen proprietary files — 14,000 of them, to be exact — and used them to start a new company, called Otto, the autonomous-driving tech startup acquired by Uber in August for $680 million. Otto demonstrated a self-driving semi truck late last year. . The lawsuit alleges unfair competition, patent infringement, and trade secret misappropriation. It also claims the allegedly stolen technology earned Otto employees more than $500 million.
The lawsuit says Waymo noiced the issue when it was inadvertently copied in an email from a supplier that showed an Uber lidar circuit board, which bore a “striking resemblance” to one of Waymo’s designs. The complaint accuses former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski of downloading the 14,000 files in question in December 2015. That allegedly included the lidar circuit board, part of a sensor that helps autonomous cars “see” their environment.
Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and formed Otto in May. The lawsuit alleges that, prior to his departure, he created a domain name for his new company, and told other Waymo employees that he planned to “replicate” the company’s technology for a competitor.