Uber Technologies Inc said on Friday its self-driving sensor technology was "fundamentally different" from Waymo's, blasting the Alphabet Inc unit's claim that it profited from stolen files in the race to roll out the first driverless vehicle. After the alleged theft, Levandowski left Google early past year to found a self-driving auto startup called Otto that Uber bought for $680 million last August.
Uber and its self-driving truck subsidiary Otto have hit back at the Google-owned self-driving auto firm Waymo, denying allegations that they have stolen and copied the latter's lidar sensor technology. Waymo said Uber was able to quickly scale up its autonomous program after Levandowski downloaded the files before his departure to form a company that Uber then acquired.
Laser-based lidar has emerged as a key technology in the anticipated self-driving vehicle revolution, and in February Waymo had filed a lawsuit accusing Uber and Otto of stealing the ideas behind its "mission-critical" photonic sensors. It followed a Monday order from U.S. District Judge William Alsup, ruling Levandowski couldn't use his Fifth Amendment right to.
Waymo also claimed in its original suit that Uber infringed its patents covering the LiDAR technology.
In a court filing with heavily redacted technological details, Uber adds that by late 2015 it had made a decision to develop a customized lidar system with an unspecified collaborator, and began work on a custom beam pattern.
On the other hand, Uber's ground for arbitration is that the lawsuit stems from the actions of Levandowski while he was with Alphabet, and hence it should be covered under Alphabet's employee agreement with him. However, Uber claims Tyto didn't include any former Waymo staff.
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Levandowski helped establish Google as an early leader in self-driving cars, earning him more than $120 million in incentive pay, according to information inadvertently revealed in court papers earlier this week.
The new filing says, "Waymo has not consented to arbitrate this dispute with Uber, and Waymo can not be coerced into arbitration simply because the trade secrets that Uber stole and that Uber is using in Uber's self-driving cars happen to come from former Waymo employees".
After buying Otto, Uber put Levandowski in charge of Uber's self-driving project, a job that has been imperiled by this lawsuit.
Levandowski has invoked the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, his lawyer said.
The self-driving vehicle division argued that this "calculated theft" of trade secrets netted Otto employees "over half a billion dollars" and allowed Uber to "revive a stalled programme, all at Waymo's expense".
Uber says it hasn't found any evidence of ever possessing any of the files that Levandowski stands accused of stealing.