Uber Granted Key Win in Self-Driving Lawsuit
Uber's Anthony Levandowski, co-founder of the autonomous trucking startup Otto, shares video of a truck with no driver. Photo: Evan Lockridge
A federal judge has ruled that Uber is allowed to continue developing its self-driving technology during a legal battle with Waymo over stolen technology – but Anthony Levandowski, who started up an autonomous truck company later bought by Uber, can't be part of it, according to a New York Times report.
Earlier this year, Waymo accused Levandowski, the former head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, of stealing key information on its proprietary lidar (light detection and ranging) technology. Lidar radar sensors are an important part of an autonomous driving technology that allows a vehicle to “see” the road and objects around it. Waymo is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
The judge in the case decided against halting Uber’s self-driving development altogether, saying that Waymo was overreaching in its claims that the files it says Levandowski took violated 120 patent claims. However, the judge ruled that Levandowski is prohibited from working on Uber’s lidar technology during the lawsuit proceedings.
Uber anticipated this ruling to a certain degree, and Levandowski recently stepped down from his position at the head Uber’s Advanced Technologies volunteering to recuse himself from all duties related to lidar at Uber. The move was seen as a way to protect Uber’s self-driving technology development by diminishing Levandowski’s role.
Waymo brought this lawsuit against Waymo after it accused former employee Levandowski of stealing technologies related to a custom-built Lidar radar sensors and taking them to his new company, Otto. Otto was later purchased by Uber for $680 million and Levandowski was made the head of Advanced Technologies group. Waymo attempted to depose Levandowski, who was not directly named in the lawsuit. However, he pled the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify on the ground that his testimony might be self-incriminating.