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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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Alphabet Sues Uber For Patent Infringement Of Key Self-Driving Car Technology

Self Driving Car

This week, Google’s holding company Alphabet sued Uber for “theft of confidential and proprietary sensor technology,” according to a new report by Reuters.

The lawsuit, filed by Alphabet’s Waymo against Otto, an Uber subsidiary, said the defendant stole secret technology to accelerate the development of its own self-driving vehicle technology.

"Uber's Lidar technology is actually Waymo's Lidar technology," the complaint, filed in the Northern District of California, said.

In response, Uber said it took the matter “seriously” and would “review this matter carefully.”

The Lidar technology in question shoots out pulses of light to determine the position and distance of nearby objects, preventing collisions in the case of self-driving cars. Similar technologies for achieving the same end goal have been developed in the past, but Waymo’s version aimed to be 90 percent cheaper, making the technology one of the firm’s “most valuable assets.”

The Alphabet subsidiary seeks an undefined amount of monetary damages and an injunction against Otto—which was co-founded by Anthony Levandowski, a former executive of Google’s self-driving project—from using patented technology owned by Wayne.

Uber acquired Otto in August for $680 million, according to court documents.

The complaint said Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 confidential corporate files – which included technical drawings and circuit board designs for Lidar. This allowed Otto to develop its own version of the technology soon after the company’s founding.

"While Waymo developed its custom Lidar systems with sustained effort over many years, defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable Lidar system in only nine months," the complaint said, adding that Waymo only learned of the patent infringement when a vendor accidently forwarded a design of Otto’s circuit board plan to its original designer.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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