In February 2017, Waymo, the self-driving car company spun off by Google, filed a lawsuit against Uber, alleging the ride-hail giant stole its key technology. Almost a year later, a jury trial is underway in the first big legal battle of the self-driving car era. The Verge reports from a federal court in San Francisco as the two tech industry heavyweights duke it out.
Feb 19, 2021
Ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski has closed his artificial intelligence church
Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer convicted of stealing self-driving car secrets, is closing his artificial intelligence-focused church Way of the Future (WOTF), TechCrunch reports. It’s a somewhat inauspicious end to the church’s goal of pursuing “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI),” in preparation for the Singularity. Now humanity will be left to deal with rampant AI without the religion’s guidance.Read Article >
Levandowski started the process of shuttering WOTF in June 2020, according to documents filed in the state of California found by TechCrunch. WOTF never had regular meetings or a physical church building. The church’s funds, totaling $175,172, have been donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Mar 28, 2018
Otto co-founder Lior Ron leaves Uber
A co-founder of Otto, the self-driving trucking company acquired by Uber in 2016, has left the company according to CNBC. Lior Ron co-founded Otto (née Ottomotto) with Anthony Levandowski in 2016 shortly before it was acquired by Uber, a move that was at the center of the recent Waymo v. Uber trial. Ron has served as the head of Uber Freight, the company’s trucking arm, since the acquisition. A source familiar with the situation confirmed Ron’s departure to The Verge.Read Article >
Uber declined to comment on the specifics of Ron’s departure. “We remain fully invested in and excited about the future of Uber Freight,” a spokesperson said via email. “We believe it will continue to grow as we use our network and technology to transform the trucking industry.”
Feb 13, 2018
The Waymo v. Uber trial has shaken my confidence in self-driving cars
Amid the avalanche of damning emails and embarrassing text messages that flowed out of the Waymo-Uber trial, what struck me the most was when ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski — Kalanick’s onetime business partner who he described in court as his “brother from another mother” — described the race to build self-driving cars as a “zero sum game.”Read Article >
“We need to think through the strategy to take all the shortcuts we can,” Levandowski told Kalanick. “I just see this as a race and we need to win, second place is the first looser [sic].”
Feb 9, 2018
Who blinked first in Waymo v. Uber?
Waymo and Uber have reached a settlement in their self-driving car case. The announcement came as a big shock, even though I wrote yesterday that Waymo’s case was looking oddly weak. Parties are free to settle in the middle of trial (heck, they can settle while the jury is considering a verdict, and they can settle even after the verdict is out) but it’s pretty rare.Read Article >
For one thing, it’s hard to think about negotiating when you’re busy prepping for trial the next day. For another thing, if you were going to settle, you probably should have done it before. It’s pretty messy to call off the boxing match in the middle of the third round.
Feb 9, 2018
Uber rejected a $500 million settlement from Waymo earlier this week: report
Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, proposed a settlement of $500 million to Uber earlier this week, but the ride-hailing company’s board of directors rejected the deal, according to a report from Reuters, which was confirmed by sources familiar with the case. On Friday, the two companies settled their acrimonious lawsuit over stolen self-driving car secrets. The price tag: a much more reasonable $245 million in Uber stock, and a promise not to use Waymo’s trade secrets in any of Uber’s autonomous technology.Read Article >
The proposed settlement earlier this week also would have included much harsher conditions on Uber, most likely related to its research and development on autonomous vehicle hardware, according to a source familiar with the case. As part of today’s agreement, Uber cannot incorporate Waymo’s confidential information in the hardware and software produced by its Advanced Technologies Group.
Feb 9, 2018
Sean O'Kane, Andrew J. Hawkins and 1 more
Waymo and Uber reach a surprise settlement
After months of buildup and nearly a full week of courtroom wrangling, the two sides in the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit have reached a settlement, and the case is being dismissed with prejudice. An attorney for Waymo announced the settlement this morning and was met with gasps of shock from reporters and members of the public who had crowded into the courtroom in San Francisco in hopes of seeing more drama. Judge Alsup granted the motion to dismiss, and with that, the case is, in his words, “ancient history.” This was supposed to be day 5 of the trial, which was expected to last at least another week, likely more.Read Article >
So who gets what? Waymo gets 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity at the company’s $72 billion valuation, which works out to a value of around $245 million. Waymo had originally sought a $1 billion settlement last year before the trial got underway, but Uber rejected that deal. Both sides are responsible for paying their own legal fees. “This is all equity; zero cash,” said a source familiar with the settlement. “It means Waymo is invested in Uber’s future.”
I’m not so sure Waymo’s going to win against Uber
So… guys? Can we talk about something for a second?Read Article >
It’s day 4 of Waymo v. Uber, and I’m still not entirely clear on what Waymo’s case is.
Uber is just too underhanded to play the underdog against Waymo
The most remarkable thing about Waymo v. Uber is that so many of the people following the case are essentially rooting for Google to crush a smaller firm with a lawsuit. It’s a tale as old as time: a maverick upstart galls a bigger, more established competitor, and the bigger guy strikes back in the courts. It’s practically an American fairy tale, and yet Uber’s lawyers are hard-pressed to get this archetypal narrative to stick. Nobody sees Uber as the underdog.Read Article >
For one thing, through a collision of multiple scandals, Uber has become extraordinarily unpopular, and the discovery process in this lawsuit hasn’t done much to alleviate its reputation as an unethical, underhanded company. But the other part is that the supposed maverick upstart hasn’t managed to get one over the complacent megacorporation.
Feb 7, 2018
Why Waymo might play the Michael Douglas ‘Greed is Good’ speech in court
Even before the jury took their seats on the second day of Waymo v. Uber, the lawsuit reached a new milestone of absurdity as Waymo argued that they should be allowed to play a clip of Michael Douglas’ “Greed is Good” speech from Wall Street (1987). Uber would really rather they not.Read Article >
Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski were in frequent contact, and forensic analysis uncovered countless deleted text messages, including one where, according to Waymo, Levandowski says, “wink wink” and links to a YouTube video of Michael Douglas’ famous speech.
Feb 5, 2018
The battle of the damning emails begins with Waymo v. Uber opening statements
“Cheat codes. Find them. Use them,” said Travis Kalanick in April 2016, according to meeting notes dredged up during discovery in Waymo v. Uber. It’s just one of countless embarrassing quotes paraded out today during opening statements.Read Article >
It’s been almost a year since Waymo first filed suit here in San Francisco. The intervening months have been a scorched-earth death match of litigation, with so many lawyers billing countless hours that the courtroom this morning was packed full of them, with hardly any room for the public. Journalists and spectators alike were crowded into an overflow room.
Feb 5, 2018
Here’s what you need to know about the Uber-Waymo trial, which starts today
Today, after almost a year of legal wrangling, compounding delays, and dramatic and hilarious twists, the jury will begin hearing arguments in Waymo’s bombshell lawsuit accusing Uber of stealing driverless car technology.Read Article >
The suit centers around the alleged theft of thousands of documents by former Google self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski. Shortly after Levandowski left Google, he founded Otto, a self-driving truck startup, which was quickly acquired by Uber. Waymo’s lawyers have argued that Uber wound up with those allegedly stolen files and merely masqueraded the process as an acquisition.
Jan 16, 2018
Anthony Levandowski’s former nanny accuses him of stealing trade secrets
The saga of ex-Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski continues to get stranger, with fresh accusations of stealing trade secrets. This time, they’re coming from the somewhat surprising source of Erika Wong, the former nanny for Levandowski’s two children from December 2016 to June 2017, via a report from Wired.Read Article >
Levandowski had previously worked at Google where he ran the self-driving program there (the program was later spun out into a standalone company, Waymo) before leaving to work at Uber, and is accused of stealing approximately 14,000 documents from Waymo.
Dec 16, 2017
Uber allegedly hacked rivals, surveilled politicians, and impersonated protestors
Last month, details emerged about a secretive unit within Uber dedicated to stealing trade secrets, surveilling competitors, using self-destructing messages, and dodging government regulators. The accusations came from a former member of Uber’s security team, Ric Jacobs, whose 37-page letter detailing all of Uber’s shady behavior was sent to Uber’s management earlier this year. Prior to today, only snippets of the letter have been read aloud in court. Now, a redacted copy of the letter is public as part of the ongoing litigation between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet. And it’s a doozy.Read Article >
The so-called “Jacobs letter” has become the latest twist in the high-profile case between two tech giants over the future of self-driving cars. Its incendiary content caps off a disastrous year for Uber, which has suffered a series of self-inflicted scandals that has upended its senior leadership and raised the prospect of criminal penalties.
Dec 14, 2017
Uber is being investigated for criminal behavior, Justice Department confirms
The US Department of Justice confirmed that it is investigating Uber, according to a letter submitted to a judge overseeing Alphabet’s lawsuit against the ride-hail firm. It is the first official confirmation that federal prosecutors are probing Uber’s alleged theft of Alphabet’s trade secrets.Read Article >
The letter, addressed to federal judge William Alsup, was from the office of Acting US Attorney Alex Tse from the Northern District of California. Tse confirms that prosecutors, in the course of a “pending criminal investigation,” interviewed ex-Uber security analyst Richard Jacobs, whose letter to Uber’s legal team concerning illegal behavior by Uber employees was recently made public. In the interview, Jacobs told investigators everything he laid out in the bombshell memo:
Nov 28, 2017
Judge says Uber withheld evidence of a 'shadow system' of company communications
Federal judge William Alsup delayed the upcoming trial between Uber and Waymo because the ride-hailing company withheld key evidence during the discovery process. Waymo, the self-driving car company that was spun out of Google, sued Uber in February for allegedly stealing key parts of its autonomous vehicle technology.Read Article >
The evidence in question is a 37-page memo from ex-Uber security analyst Ric Jacobs that was written to the company’s legal team. The letter states that Uber’s “Marketplace Analytics” team existed for the sole purpose of “acquiring trade secrets, code base,” and other intelligence from competitors including Waymo, according to Gizmodo. The letter also describes concern over clandestine practices performed by Uber, such as using “non-attributable” devices and self-destructing chat apps like Wickr that helped hide communications about these practices. (Uber was previously found to be using Wickr when it was caught investigating its legal foes in 2016.)
Oct 19, 2017
The Judge’s Code
On May 18th, 2012, attorneys for Oracle and Google were battling over nine lines of code in a hearing before Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California. The first jury trial in Oracle v. Google, the fight over whether Google had hijacked code from Oracle for its Android system, was wrapping up.Read Article >
The argument centered on a function called rangeCheck. Of all the lines of code that Oracle had tested — 15 million in total — these were the only ones that were “literally” copied. Every keystroke, a perfect duplicate. It was in Oracle’s interest to play up the significance of rangeCheck as much as possible, and David Boies, Oracle’s lawyer, began to argue that Google had copied rangeCheck so that it could take Android to market more quickly. Judge Alsup was not buying it.
Oct 3, 2017
Waymo vs. Uber trial date postponed to December
A judge overseeing the lawsuit between Waymo and Uber has granted the Alphabet subsidiary’s request for a delay in the trial. Waymo had requested more time to review a recently unsealed report detailing Uber’s acquisition of the self-driving truck startup Otto. That report is now at the center of Waymo’s allegations that Uber knowingly accepted stolen trade secrets to fuel its driverless car effort.Read Article >
The trial will now start December 4th, and is expected to last a little over two weeks — though Judge William Alsup said he would ask the jury to keep the week of January 8th open as well, in case it runs long.
Oct 3, 2017
Waymo vs. Uber: unsealed court documents reveal damning evidence
The due diligence report that Uber fought so hard to keep from being used in its legal battle with Waymo and Alphabet was made public on Monday — and it’s easy to see why Uber resisted as hard as it did. The document, prepared by cybersecurity firm Stroz Friedberg as part of Uber’s acquisition of self-driving trucking startup Otto, describes a thorough forensic review of personal devices belonging to five people at Otto, including the much-embattled Anthony Levandowski, who earlier this year attempted to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid turning over documents in the case.Read Article >
The report paints a picture of executives and lawyers trying to rein in improbably risky behavior at Uber and Otto, two wildly undisciplined companies, even as other top executives egged it on. At this point it’s not terribly surprising that the summary report of the investigation — apparently codenamed “Project Unicorn” by Stroz Friedberg — casts Levandowski and Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick in a particularly bad light. But the report also has damning things to say about Levandowski’s cofounders, Lior Ron and Don Burnette, as well as other employees at Otto, including, of all people, the head of Human Resources.
Sep 27, 2017
Anthony Levandowski, Uber’s fired self-driving car engineer, founded his own church
Anthony Levandowski is many things to many different people: brilliant engineer, serial entrepreneur, ruthless businessman, trade secret thief. (That last one is just alleged.) But now, thanks to an extensive profile in Backchannel, we can add another category to Levandowski’s long résumé: church founder.Read Article >
Levandowski, the multimillionaire who is at the center of the ongoing legal battle between Alphabet and Uber over autonomous driving technology, recently filed paperwork to create a religious organization called Way of the Future. According to Wired, the purpose is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”
May 30, 2017
Uber fires executive accused of stealing Google’s self-driving car secrets
Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the former head of its self-driving car project. Levandowski came to Uber after a long stint at Google, where he shepherded that company’s own self-driving car program before it was spun off into a standalone business called Waymo. Earlier this year, Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber, alleging that Levandowski stole some 14,000 documents from Waymo, and that the information became the technological basis for Uber’s self-driving cars. The news was first reported by The New York Times.Read Article >
Levandowski had already stepped away from running Uber’s self-driving car project, with the company moving him to an operations role in late April. Uber has denied the allegations against Levandowski, and in the meantime has been trying to prove in court that it developed its own self-driving technology independently. Levandowski’s refusal to cooperate with those efforts was the reason for his firing, according to his termination letter, which you can see below.
May 15, 2017
Uber dodges a bullet in latest ruling from self-driving car lawsuit — for now
A federal judge has rejected Waymo’s request to prevent Uber from using allegedly stolen self-driving technology, which is sure to come as a relief to the embattled ride-hailing company. Under the ruling, Uber can continue to operate its fleet of autonomous cars on public roads in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and California, but it still faces a criminal case ahead about allegations that it stole Google’s self-driving secrets.Read Article >
In rejecting Waymo’s main request, Judge William Alsup did grant the Google spinoff a partial injunction against Uber as part of its ongoing lawsuit. The court has now officially barred Anthony Levandowski, who recently recused himself from Uber’s self-driving program, from working on the LIDAR program. It has also ordered the return of all stolen documents to Waymo. As such, the court has granted Waymo "further expedited discovery of aid of possible further provisional relief."
May 12, 2017
Uber could face federal charges over alleged theft of Waymo trade secrets
The legal case brought by Alphabet’s Waymo against Uber for allegedly stealing self-driving car secrets is set to go to trial. Judge William Alsup, presiding over the case, denied Uber’s request for arbitration on Thursday. That means the case will go to court, but the judge also recommended that the case go to federal prosecutors to investigate whether Uber is guilty of theft. The US Attorney still has yet to accept the case, but if it does and Uber is found guilty, it could face criminal prosecution.Read Article >
Waymo filed the explosive lawsuit in late February, claiming that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and current vice president at Uber, had stolen 14,000 confidential documents — or 9.7 gigabytes of data — before leaving Google. Among the documents were trade secrets and patents, including Waymo’s proprietary LIDAR system, the company claims.
May 3, 2017
Waymo lacks a ‘smoking gun’ in case against Uber, judge says
A federal judge is weighing Waymo’s request to prevent Uber from using self-driving vehicle technology the Google spinoff claims was stolen by a rogue ex-employee, according to multiple reports. The ruling in favor of the injunction could undermine Uber’s ability to operate its fleet of autonomous cars on public roads in Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. It’s the next closely watched case that pits two of Silicon Valley’s biggest players head-to-head.Read Article >
US District Court Judge William Alsup appears to be leaning against granting Waymo’s request for an injunction, but he has yet to issue a ruling. According to Reuters, Alsup chided Waymo for not producing a “smoking gun” in its case against Uber.
Apr 7, 2017
Uber forced to admit that Google’s self-driving cars are way better than its own
Uber filed its much-anticipated response to the bombshell lawsuit from Alphabet’s Waymo on Friday, arguing that it couldn’t have stolen the self-driving secrets Waymo claims because Uber is still using off-the-shelf technology for its autonomous vehicles. Uber says that the Google spinoff’s lawsuit is “a misfire,” but in doing so, the combative ride-hailing company was forced to make a begrudging admission: that Google’s self-driving cars are far superior to its own.Read Article >
Waymo filed the explosive lawsuit in late February, claiming that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and current top executive at Uber, had stolen 14,000 confidential documents before leaving Google. According to Waymo, Levandowski used the stolen technology to entice Uber into buying his self-driving truck startup Otto for $680 million six months after it launched in 2016. Uber called the allegation “baseless,” but is only today filing a detailed response.
Mar 10, 2017
Alphabet’s Waymo asks judge to block Uber from using self-driving car secrets
Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving spinoff from Google, is formally asking a judge to block Uber from operating its autonomous vehicles, according to new documents filed in Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber. The lawsuit, which was filed last month, alleges that Uber stole key elements of its self-driving car technology from Google. Uber has called the accusations “baseless.”Read Article >
Today in federal court, Waymo filed the sworn testimony of Gary Brown, a forensic security engineer with Google since 2013. Citing logs from Google’s secure network, Brown claims that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who now runs Uber’s self-driving car program, downloaded 14,000 files from a Google repository that contain design files, schematics, and other confidential information pertaining to its self-driving car project. Levandowski used a laptop provided by Google to download the files, a fact that Brown says made it easy to track.