Waymo says Uber made “cover up scheme” to steal self-driving car tech

Chris Burns - May 3, 2017, 2:13pm CDT
Waymo says Uber made “cover up scheme” to steal self-driving car tech

In a legal battle between Alphabet’s Waymo (previously under Google) and Uber is raging in California. Revelations today suggest that Uber may have given a former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski $250-million in stock options in exchange for a massive amount of data (9.7GB, according to Waymo outside attorney Charles Verhoeven) essentially stolen from Waymo computers. Of course it’s not all that simple – there’s another company in between Waymo and Uber, but Google suggests that the company in question was created only to act as a shell to cover Levandowki’s tracks.

To learn more about the events that’ve lead up to this point between Waymo, Uber, and Levandowkski, see our earlier timeline. Putting it all in a nutshell, it has a lot to do with timing and the divulging of important information. The keys in expansion of the case today include a few details that enter into play during the operation of Levandowski’s company Otto.

Levandowski started the company Otto not long after he left Google. “Through discovery we’ve learned that Uber and Levandowski created a coverup scheme for what they were doing,” said Waymo’s lawyer Charles Verhoeven this week. “They concocted a story for public consumption.”

That quote comes from Business Insider, who also provided notes from the case in court this week. They include word from Waymo suggesting that an email sent by Brian McClendon (formerly at Uber) which suggested he was meeting with an “Anthony”. Another email, they say, included a file called “NewCo Deliverables” with word that “this list of deliverables is a high bar for sure but then again so is what he is asking for in $$.”

Both of those emails were sent in January of 2016 before the exit of Levandowski from Google on the 27th of that same month. According to Ina Fried, also at the hearing, Waymo produced a “document showing Levandowski got more than 5 million shares of Uber stock that vested the day after he left Google.”

“The very next day, he’s getting awarded stock by Uber when he’s supposedly starting his own company,” said the prosecution’s lawyer, Verhoeven. “When he’s supposedly building his own technology, he’s secretly working for Uber.”

Judge William Alsup responded to the prosecution, suggesting that they show “evidence that Uber knew Levandowski had downloaded company documents” (VIA AXIOS.). According to Verhoeven, Waymo can’t do this because Uber is withholding 3,000+ documents that might contain proof while Levandowski pleads the Fifth Amendment.

The hearing is currently taking place and isn’t likely set to be over any time soon. Check back for updates, and check back often.

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