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The Google vs. Uber Self-Driving Car Trial Has Been Delayed

The hotly-contested legal battle between Waymo and Uber dates to February, when the former filed a lawsuit against the latter, alleging that Uber used a former Google engineer to steal self-driving car trade secrets to help bolsters its own autonomous driving ambitions.

The biggest question that arose in this context is that “Did former Google engineer and self–driving car whiz Anthony Levandowski swipe documents containing valuable Google intellectual property and bring them to his own startup, which was acquired by Uber just months later for a reported $680 million? And: Did Uber executives, including now-ousted CEO Travis Kalanick, conspire with Levandowski to do it, then use that intellectual property to advance their own technology?

Since Waymo filed its suit in February, Uber’s battle stance has been: “Whatever Levandowski did, we had no part in it. Any stolen files never made it onto our servers or into our cars. No one here used that information to inform how we’re developing our own technology.”

Whether Levandowski conspired with Uber officials to take those documents is still an open question.

Through Waymo, Google is suing Uber for stealing a raft of self–driving car trade secrets and patents, including information on lidar, a sensor that will help autonomous vehicles “see” the world around them. Google stated that Levandowski stole thousands of documents when he left Google as part of a plan to bring those patents and trade secrets to Uber and use them to jump-start Uber’s own self–driving car project. The suit demands Uber pay at least $1.9 billion in damages.

A judge overseeing the lawsuit between Waymo and Uber has granted a request for a delay in the trial as Waymo had requested more time to review a recently unsealed report detailing Uber’s acquisition of the self-driving truck startup Otto and to analyze the risks in hiring a Google self-driving car engineer ( Anthony Levandowski), and whether he possessed Waymo trade secrets.That report is now at the center of Waymo’s allegations that Uber knowingly accepted stolen trade secrets to fuel its driverless car effort.

But the fact that investigators “discovered no evidence” that Google confidential information retained or accessed by Levandowski was transferred to Otto or anyone else could undercut Waymo’s main charge of stolen trade secrets. In other words, Uber ultimately may be able to avoid federal charges in this case, but Levandowski, who has asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, may not be as lucky.

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