Written by Anish Chaudhary
More importantly, the settlement was quite beneficial to the autonomous car industry as a whole. A long and dragged-out court case would have hindered the technological progress the two companies would have made, which would be detrimental to the industry.
This year started with one of the biggest and most intriguing Silicon Valley legal battles in years – Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo vs. Uber. The legal tension arose from Waymo’s accusations that Uber stole its proprietary technology related to autonomous vehicles. Waymo sought to persuade the jury to stop Uber’s development of its light detection and ranging systems technology, a key component of autonomous vehicles. As expected, Uber initially rejected Waymo’s charges, denying any wrongdoing. As the case progressed, further information unraveled, eventually leading to a settlement.
While the case had initially been filed in January 2017, it was presented in court in February this year. Waymo asserted that over a hundred trade secrets had been misappropriated by Uber. The number of trade secrets in question reduced over the course of the case, and there were two pieces of evidence that they could potentially use. Firstly, there was evidence of a hard-drive named “NEWCO” being connected to a Waymo employees computer. NEWCO was the initial code name used by Uber for its subsidiary Otto. However, the hard-drive could not be found to be examined. Secondly, Uber had an email from a Google engineer, stating “… It was considered low-value enough that we had even considered hosting it off Google infrastructure.”
The case was eventually settled out-of-court, with Alphabet getting around 0.3% of Uber’s equity, worth around $245 million. So what did this settlement mean for the companies? For Uber, this seemed an excellent settlement, as Alphabet initially demanded $1bn in October last year. As for Waymo, this settlement allowed the company to negate the negative press and focus on their true aims. Additionally, Waymo also agreed to work with Uber to make sure no confidential Google information is used in Uber’s technology.
More importantly, the settlement was quite beneficial to the autonomous car industry as a whole. A long and dragged-out court case would have hindered the technological progress the two companies would have made, which would be detrimental to the industry. While Uber has faced additional problems since then, with the autonomous car accident, the situation could have been worse if this case were still ongoing. The settlement has allowed two of the most powerful companies in the driverless car space to move on and focus on their respective technologies.