Alphabet sues Uber over self-driving car tech

Old carsAlphabet’s Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber’s autonomous trucking subsidiary Otto over claims that it stole confidential and proprietary sensor technology.

Waymo claims Uber and Otto nicked confidential information on Waymo’s Lidar sensor technology to help speed its own efforts in autonomous technology.

Waymo’s complaint in the Northern District of California said that Uber’s LiDAR technology is actually Waymo’s LiDAR technology.

Uber said that it is considering the allegations.

Lidar, which uses light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on or near the road, is a crucial component of autonomous driving systems.

Previous systems have been prohibitively expensive and Waymo sought to design one over 90 percent cheaper, making its Lidar technology among the company’s “most valuable assets,” Waymo said.

Waymo is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and a court order preventing Uber from using its proprietary information.

Otto launched in May, due in part to the high profile of one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, who had been an executive on Google’s self-driving project.

Waymo said that before Levandowski’s resignation in January 2016 from Google he downloaded over 14,000 confidential files, including Lidar circuit board designs, thereby allowing Uber and Otto to fast-track its self-driving technology.

Waymo accused Levandowski of attempting to “erase any forensic fingerprints” by reformatting  his laptop.

“While Waymo developed its custom LiDAR systems with sustained effort over many years, defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable LiDAR system in only nine months,” the complaint said.