Waymo, Uber settle trade secrets theft trial

Waymo CEO John Krafcik(R) exits Phillip Burton Federal Building after the trial between Waymo and Uber Technologies in San Francisco, California. Photo: Stephen Lam / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

SAN FRANCISCO - Waymo and Uber announced an agreement on Friday to end the blockbuster trial in which the ridesharing giant was accused of stealing trade secrets from the former Google car unit.

The settlement ends a trial between two Silicon Valley rivals in a race to develop self-driving cars after four days of testimony before a federal judge in San Francisco.

According to a source familiar with the agreement, Uber agreed to a financial settlement giving the Alphabet unit 0.34 percent of Uber shares - which would be some $244-million (R3.9-billion) based on Uber's valuation of $72-billion (R864-billion).

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo's technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement.

Waymo said in a statement: "We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology."

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Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a separate statement that "while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber... we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work."

The trial so far included testimony from former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick, who denied a conspiracy to steal trade secrets in a tense two-day court appearance.

Alphabet's Waymo division was seeking at least $1 billion over the theft of secrets from its self-driving car program in the trial before federal judge William Alsup.

If the case had gone to the jury and Waymo had prevailed, it would have dealt a severe blow to Uber's efforts to widely deploy self-driving vehicles as part of its ridesharing operations -- a field that also includes Waymo and other rivals.

Waymo had accused Uber of conspiring with former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who had been accused of downloading thousands of proprietary documents before leaving the company and ending up at Uber.

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Khosrowshahi said in a statement he regretted the handling of the Levandowski matter, which occurred before he took over as CEO last year.

"My job as Uber's CEO is to set the course for the future of the company: innovating and growing responsibly, as well as acknowledging and correcting mistakes of the past," he said.

"In doing so, I want to express regret for the actions that have caused me to write this letter."

He added, "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."

AFP

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