Waymo, Lyft to team up on self-driving vehicles

Waymo, Lyft to team up on self-driving vehicles

(Waymo had requested that the judge bar Uber from using its trade secrets and prevent Levandowski from working on the self-driving project entirely.) The order stopped short of halting Uber's self-driving research or pilot programs.

In February, Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit of Google's parent company Alphabet, filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging trade secret theft.

The timing of the partnership couldn't be worse for Uber, which finds itself in a heated battle against both companies, while it fends off a seemingly endless string of controversy, including allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Waymo has also teamed up with Uber-rival Lyft to bolster self-driving auto technology.

Uber said in a statement it's pleased with the court's ruling allowing it to continue building its autonomous-driving program, including its innovation around lidar. "We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from the ground up", an Uber spokesperson told IBT.

Waymo has alleged in its lawsuit that Levandowski and Uber conspired to create a sham self-driving truck startup called Otto as a prelude to a $680-million deal for Uber to buy Otto and get the desperately needed technology.

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He added, "Significantly, the evidence indicates that, during the acquisition, Uber likely knew or at least should have known that Levandowski had taken and retained possession of Waymo's confidential files".

The decision was only a partial victory for Waymo, however.

Alsup also ordered Uber to remove Levandowski from any role in Lidar, and that it stop him from copying or otherwise using the downloaded materials.

In documents issued late last week but unsealed Monday, judge Alsup did not suspend Uber's driverless-car program, but he gave Waymo broad power to scrutinize Uber's program.

Waymo has some of the most advanced self-driving vehicle technology and has been looking for partners, while Lyft offers ride services in about 300 United States cities.

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The court order also grants Waymo seven more depositions, and the ability to inspect its competitor Uber's ongoing LiDAR work, including designs and code.

Lyft would like to drive up its share of the ride-hailing market that it and Uber have mostly locked up, with Lyft having about 20 percent and Uber 80 percent. Uber bought Otto last August for $680 million and named Levandowski head of its self-driving vehicle program.

The case hinges on more than 14,000 confidential files that Waymo alleges Levandowski stole before he left the company.

Though it now feels as if every automaker, auto parts supplier, ride-sharing service provider and his algorithm-writing cousin has an autonomous driving strategy in place, Alphabet/Google's (GOOGL) Waymo unit and Tesla Motors (TSLA) still seem to be ahead of the pack when it comes to actually bringing a vehicle that can drive itself to market. Levandowski chose to plead the Fifth Amendment in the case, reserving the right against self-incrimination. Google, and now Waymo, has logged over three million autonomous miles on USA streets, while Lyft has trip data from five years' worth of rides in 300 cities.

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