Uber and Waymo Reach Settlement in Self-Driving Car Court Case
This battle over autonomous-car tech may be over.
Uber and Waymo announced Friday that they had settled their court battle over the alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets. The settlement comes after a year of legal jousting, although the trial between the two companies lasted just a few days.
Under the terms of the settlement, Uber will pay Waymo a 0.34 percent equity stake. Waymo filed its lawsuit against Uber last year, claiming the company used stolen self-driving car trade secrets. Waymo believes engineer Anthony Levandowski stole 14,000 files while he was an employee, and took them to his autonomous-driving startup, Otto, which was bought by Uber in 2016.
In a blog post, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi "expressed regret" for the actions that led to the lawsuit, but reiterated that Uber does not believe it is in possession of any trade secrets.
"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," Khosrowshahi wrote. "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."
Khosrowshahi also apologized to the Uber employees in the company's self-driving car division for "distracting from your mission" with the lawsuit. He also noted that the acquisition of Otto made "good business sense" and claimed Uber did not use stolen trade secrets.
"To be clear, 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," Khosrowshahi said. He added that "we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our lidar and software represents just our good work."
A Waymo spokesperson initially acknowledged the settlement to Business Insider, saying that "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 world."
The settlement ends what could have continued to be a major distraction for two of the biggest players in self-driving cars. It also shows that Uber CEO Khosrowshahi is serious about adopting a less-antagonistic attitude than his predecessor, Travis Kalanick in order to address the various scandals he inherited.