Judge Says Waymo Hasn’t Produced ‘Smoking Gun’ in Uber Lawsuit

A U.S. judge said he does not see clear evidence that Uber benefited from stolen Waymo self-driving car tech.

byStephen Edelstein| PUBLISHED May 4, 2017 9:52 AM
Judge Says Waymo Hasn’t Produced ‘Smoking Gun’ in Uber Lawsuit

A Waymo seeks an injunction that could shut down Uber's self-driving car program, a U.S. judge is challenging the claim at the center of the Google spinoff's lawsuit against the ride-sharing giant.

At a Wednesday hearing in a San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said Waymo hadn't produced a "smoking gun" indicating that Uber benefited from stolen self-driving car tech, reports Reuters. Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, has accused Uber of using information stolen by Anthony Levandowski, a former employee.

Alsup said it was undisputed that Levandowski downloaded 14,000 confidential Waymo files before leaving the company to form his own startup, Otto, which was bought by Uber last year. But he said Waymo had not produced evidence that Uber actually used those stolen trade secrets.

Waymo has accused Uber of improperly withholding thousands of documents. At the Wednesday hearing, Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez said the company had spent more than 6,000 hours on document review, and found no trace of Waymo materials in its systems. Alsip reportedly praised Uber's efforts, but noted that unreleased documents related to Uber's acquisition of Otto are a "treasure trove" of potentially important information. He did not rule on whether Uber improperly withheld the documents.

Despite the document controversy, Waymo is now doubling down on its accusations against Uber. It is now accusing the company of collaborating with Levandowski while he was still an employee of Waymo. Levandowski, who refuses to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, has been given a prominent position in Uber's self-driving car program, but was recently shifted to another job.

Throughout the process, Uber has argued that the dispute should go to arbitration, another item Alsup did not rule on in the Wednesday hearing. Separate from the lawsuit against Uber, Waymo is pursuing arbitration with Levandowksi and Otto co-founder Lior Ron. It claims they both attempted to poach employees from Waymo for the startup.