Uber and Waymo have been at loggerheads since the past few months regarding LiDAR and the latter’s claims that the former was using technology stolen from it by Anthony Levandowski. A Judge has finally ruled in the matter of a preliminary injunction against Uber. The ruling appears to be one that leans in Waymo’s favor and stipulates that former Google employee and Otto founder Anthony Levandowski can no longer work on any projects that involve LiDAR technology.
However, the ruling did provide partial relief to Uber, when it said that the company cold continue its work on self-driving cars as long as Levandowski was not involved with it. The cab aggregator had forestalled the decision by removing Levandowski from his role at the head of the Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). The company had also removed him from all LiDAR related projects.
Uber wanted to avoid an injunction against its self-driving car development program at all costs. And in that the company would apear to have scored a partial win. While Levandowski can’t be involved with LiDAR, the company can take up others to carry on his work while the former Waymo employees turns his attention to some other department. As far as we can see, Levandowski will continue to have a position at Uber.
Meanwhile, Judge Alsup, who was presiding over the case, has ruled that whether or not Uber wantonly deployed the documents Levandowski allegedly stole from Waymo — the fact remains that information from Waymo’s tech had leaked into Uber’s. The judge made this ruling regardless of whether any Waymo documents said to be stolen were found or not fond on the cab aggregator’s computers.
To compound Uber’s worries, the ruling also gives Waymo the right to:
Inspect any and all aspects of defendants’ ongoing work involving LiDAR – including, without limitation, schematics, work orders, source code, notes and emails – whether or not said work resulted in any prototype or device.
That is not the kind of power you would want one of your largest business competitors to have. What’s more, Waymo could also keep hunting for any other potential clues that could help it reopen the case and get an injunction against Uber. And yes, it could well allow Waymo to keep an eye on the progress Uber is making with its self-driving car development program.
Speaking with the TechCrunch, the cab aggregator said:
We are pleased with the court’s ruling that Uber can continue building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology, including our 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.
Waymo’s reply meanwhile, showed that the company wasn’t done with its investigations quite yet.
Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions. We welcome the order to prohibit Uber’s use of stolen documents containing trade secrets developed by Waymo through years of research, and to formally bar Mr Levandowski from working on the technology. The court has also granted Waymo expedited discovery and we will use this to further protect our work and hold Uber fully responsible for its misconduct.
Overall, the decision is a blow to Uber. Regardless of whether he stole those files from Waymp or not, Levandowski is a self-driving car expert and the cab aggregator company went to quite some pains — not to mention expenses — to get him to work with it on the development of the tech. Now, it is likely to have to turn to researchers sourced from Carnegie Mellon, to lead the project.
You can read the full ruling, right here.