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Waymo and Uber settle self-driving vehicle trade secret dispute

11 February 2018

Kalanick forcefully denied those allegations during his court appearance Wednesday, arguing that his pursuit of top-tier engineering talent was a way of advancing driverless technology and ensuring Uber's survival. A settlement in the middle of a trial is highly unusual, but both companies had motives for doing so in this case.

The settlement includes an agreement "to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber hardware and software".

Going to trial, Waymo seemed to have had the advantage since a U.S. judge last May ordered Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo employee at the center of the case, to return to his former employer the confidential files that he would have taken away when leaving the company. In an announcement, Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi apologized, saying that his company's acquisition (under previous leadership) "should have been handled differently". Because Waymo now owns a stake in Uber, the two companies are, ironically, brought closer after their yearlong legal battle.

Uber's CEO also "expressed regret for the actions" that led to the lawsuit.

Waymo filed a lawsuit almost a year ago accusing Uber of conspiring with Levandowski to create a fake company that would be purchased by Uber and used to steal eight trade secrets from Google's self-driving vehicle team. Uber fired its self-driving chief after Waymo sued, and it is well behind on its plans to deploy fleets of autonomous cars in one of the most lucrative races in Silicon Valley. He founded his own startup, Otto, which Uber bought a few months later for $680 million.

Levandowski apologized to Uber employees for any distraction arising from the clash with Google.

As reported by BBC, Uber is now handing over 0.34% of its share which is worth around $245m (£177m) to Waymo.

"T$3 he 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", he wrote.

Uber, which is the world's biggest ride-hailing service, is seeking to be a major player in autonomous cars and has ordered an estimated 24,000 cars from Volvo for its project set to launch in the coming years.

The payment, to be made in Uber's stock, is a fraction of the almost $2 billion in damages that a Waymo expert had estimated Uber's alleged theft had caused. The judge in the case didn't allow that figure into the trial. "We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology", a spokesperson said.

Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as CEO a year ago, partly because of concerns about Waymo's lawsuit.

Kalanick remained adamant in a statement Friday that facts of the case were on Uber's side.

Kalanick said in a statement that no trade secrets came to Uber, and that "it is clear Uber would have prevailed", if the trial had continued.

"If you are an Uber investor, you should be pleased with the outcome, given what could have happened if they had lost", said Rohit Kulkarni, managing director of SharesPost, a research group focused on privately held companies.

Waymo said in a statement that the agreement will protect its intellectual property.

Waymo and Uber settle self-driving vehicle trade secret dispute