Well, that was fast. Not even a week into a high-profile trial between Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo and ride-hailing company Uber, both sides said on Friday that a settlement has been reached, bringing the year-long dispute to an abrupt end.
The news was met by audible gasps in the federal courtroom in California, according to reporter Kate Conger from our sister site Gizmodo.
The case began as a result of a former Google engineer, Anthony Levandowski, taking proprietary files from Google’s self-driving car program before starting work at Uber. Waymo accused Uber of relying on the stolen files to bolster it’s own self-driving efforts. Uber has long said the purloined tech was never utilized.
The agreement reached on Friday spells out that Uber cannot incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into its hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement which includes 0.34 percent of Uber equity, which works out to about $245 million, based on a valuation of $72 billion.
In a statement, a Waymo spokesperson said the company believes the agreement will protect its intellectual property “now and into the future.”
We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”
Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over for the pugnacious Travis Kalanick, issued an apology in a blog post on Friday. He reasserted that Uber doesn’t believe it used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its own autonomous driving tech.
To our friends at Alphabet: we are partners, you are an important investor in Uber, and we share a deep belief in the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better. Of course, we are also competitors. And while we won’t agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently.
But the prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited others to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect, raised some hard questions.
To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work.
“While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward,” Khosrowshahi said. “I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology.”
More as we get it.