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Uber may have to pay Waymo to use its self-driving tech

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Unless it makes changes to its autonomous technology

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Uber has admitted that it may either have to come to a licensing agreement with Waymo or make design changes to its autonomous vehicle technology, following an independent investigation into its self-driving tech, Reuters reports. The disclosure came in Uber’s 10-Q filing earlier this week.

The investigation is the result of a settlement Uber reached with Waymo back in February 2018 after the Alphabet-owned company sued Uber over alleged theft of its intellectual property. As part of the settlement, both companies agreed to employ an independent software expert to ensure that Uber’s autonomous vehicle technology had not misappropriated Waymo’s intellectual property. Now, the results of that expert analysis are in, and Uber is warning that it might not be good news for the company.

“The independent software expert recently made adverse findings as to certain functions in our autonomous vehicle software.” Uber wrote in its 10-Q filing. “These findings, which are final, will likely result in a license fee or in design changes that could require substantial time and resources to implement, and could limit or delay our production of autonomous vehicle technologies.”

Uber’s statement comes just a few short months after Anthony Levandowski, the ex-Google engineer accused of stealing trade secrets and taking them to Uber, was charged by federal prosecutors with theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. Levandowski is alleged to have stolen 14,000 documents from Google containing information about its self-driving car program.

In response to the expert’s report, Waymo told Reuters that the findings “further confirm Waymo’s allegations that Uber misappropriated our software intellectual property. We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our confidential information is not being used by Uber.” Uber declined to comment to Reuters on the report.

Uber’s self-driving car program has caused numerous problems for the company. In March 2018, one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian, causing the company to temporarily suspend its autonomous vehicle program. Documents released earlier this week suggest that the company’s cars were not programmed to react to people jaywalking, and its cars were involved in three dozen crashes prior to the one that caused the fatality.