A strident Google-Uber fight is finally heading to trial
A strident Google-Uber fight is finally heading to trial
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick may testify in a trial over trade secrets even though he is no longer leading the ridesharing giant
07 February, 2018, 01:32
"Anthony had a strong point of view that we didn't need those redundancies", he said, referring to the practice of having multiple computer systems backing up the auto in case something goes wrong.
The judge overseeing the case, William Alsup, has said Waymo must prove not only that Levandowski stole files, but that Uber actually used them in its own self-driving auto program.
During opening remarks, Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven said evidence will show a scheme between Uber executives and a former Google engineer to bring proprietary technology to Uber. Founded in 2009, as part of Google self-driving auto project, it was officially spun out of Google in 2016 and is now owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet.
The breakup between Uber and Alphabet, which still has a stake in the ride-hailing company, has taken years to get even this far. While there is not yet an official damages figure named by Waymo, the company has mentioned a figure as high as $1.8 billion (£1.28bn).
In Waymo's version, Uber was cast as Rosie Ruiz, the marathon runner who took the subway for part of the course. But it is suing him in arbitration for poaching employees, according to U.S. District Judge William Alsup who is overseeing the trial. Press, attorneys and spectators packed the courthouse. "They took our technology in an effort to win this race at all costs". "Losing was not an option". He also pointed to an email from Waymo's former chief technology officer, Chris Urmson, in which he painted a dire picture for Google executives Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The case centers on whether Uber used stolen Waymo trade secrets to improve its own autonomous-car program, and could decide the futures of two of autonomous driving's biggest players.
The hotly anticipated trial between Waymo and Uber began on Monday with Waymo's lawyer dragging out the embarrassing elements of Uber's "hustle-hard" culture.
During their opening remarks, Uber lawyers distanced the company from Levandowski, telling jurors that he is no longer with the company. "All Uber has to show for hiring Anthony Levandowski is this lawsuit".
"Uber regrets ever bringing Anthony Levandowski on board", Carmody said.
The lawsuit has already produced internal documents and sworn testimony that exposed spying programs and other shady tactics deployed by Uber to expand its business. That was the jewel that Kalanick realized Uber needed to acquire, the lawyer argued, going to the extent of helping Levandowski set up Otto effectively as a shell to give his leaving Google and joining Uber a veneer of legitimacy.
Levandowski, regarded as a visionary in autonomous technology, is not a defendant in the case but is on Waymo's witness list.
Carmody, the Uber lawyer, said Waymo feared that its rival would hire top talent from the robotics and autonomous vehicle industry.
According to Waymo's narrative, Kalanick is a vital part of an alleged conspiracy to steal self-driving auto secrets.
"I want to tell you right up front - it didn't happen", he said.
"Engineers in California and the rest of America are free to go from one job to another", Carmody said, implying that a finding against Uber could change that. This raised a worrying possibility, Judge Alsup said: That the alleged trade secrets discussed at the case could be broadcast into another court room. If Monday's proceedings are any indication, the case will continue to be more of a distance slog than a sprint, as one side tries to prove to a jury that a rival swiped its trade secrets to get ahead, while the other attempts to distance itself from an employee it suggests could have been a rogue actor.
Waymo sought to put a reassuring face on the company's self-driving efforts, calling as its first witness Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik, who described for the jury the first vehicle he bought, his two children and how he found Waymo's mission to reduce driving fatalities "inspiring". Bizarrely, Levandowski also recently founded a religious group he called Way of the Future, which worships an AI god.
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