The arduous legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, has finally concluded, with both parties reaching a settlement.
Alphabet sued Uber after it acquired Otto in 2016. Otto was founded by Anthony Levandowski, a former lead in Alphabet’s self-driving car efforts.
Alphabet argues that before leaving Waymo, Levandowski stole nearly 10GB of proprietary technical data and trade secrets. This includes blueprints, design files, and technical documentation.
In a statement from Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, the company denied “any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber.” However, short of an admission of guilt, he accepted that the acquisition of Otto “could and should have been handled differently.”
To settle this battle, Uber is to work with Waymo in order to ensure the company doesn’t use any of Waymo’s technology and research in its self-driving efforts. It has also agreed to give Waymo 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity. This is valued at roughly $245 million.
You can read Khosrowshahi’s full statement below:
My job as Uber’s CEO is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past. In doing so, I want to express regret for the actions that have caused me to write this letter.
To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better. Of course, we are also competitors. And while we won’t agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.
To our employees, in particular the great and talented people of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group: I am inspired by your passion and commitment to bringing self-driving vehicles to life. Over the last year, you’ve been distracted from your mission. For that I am sorry.
There is no question that self-driving technology is crucial to the future of transportation—a future in which Uber intends to play an important role. Through that lens, the acquisition of Otto made good business sense.
But the prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited others to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect, raised some hard questions.
To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work.
While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward. I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology.
As we change the way we operate and put integrity at the core of every decision we make, we look forward to the great race to build the future. We believe that race should be fair—and one whose ultimate winners are people, cities and our environment.
A spokesperson for Waymo said the following:
“We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”
This story is developing