Ride-sharing application provider Uber has reached a settlement with Waymo, the autonomous vehicle development subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc., just five days into a trade secrets trial that began last Monday, according to a statement from Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
Waymo sued Uber in February 2017, alleging that three ex-Google employees stole trade secrets prior to joining Uber, which then caused the latter to commit patent infringement on Waymo’s self-driving and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology.
Among those employees was Anthony Levandowski, who worked as an engineer at Waymo until Jan. 27, 2016. He established self-driving truck startup Otto in February 2016, and Uber purchased Otto for $680 million six months later.
Levandowski was retained by Uber to lead its self-driving car efforts, and Waymo contended that Uber’s purchase of Otto was part of a conspiracy to steal trade secrets, something that Uber has denied.
Under the settlement agreement, Uber will give Waymo an equity payout of 0.34 percent of its Series G shares, valued today at around $245 million, but no cash, according to a report from Forbes.
Uber also reportedly agreed to not use any trade secrets or confidential information from Waymo aside from the eight specific trade secrets being argued at the trial.
“We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology,” Waymo said in a statement, according to the Forbes report. “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.”
Khosrowshahi said that although her company and Alphabet “won’t agree on everything going forward, we agree that Uber’s acquisition of Otto could and should have been handled differently,” noting that in addition to being competitors in the autonomous vehicle technology space, the two companies are “partners” and Alphabet is an “important investor in Uber.”
“There is no question that self-driving technology is crucial to the future of transportation—a future in which Uber intends to play an important role,” she said. “Through that lens, the acquisition of Otto made good business sense.
“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. 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.”
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