Most of us have at one point sent an email to the wrong person on accident because email programs conveniently present us a list of names of people we’ve emailed in the past when we start typing a name. However, few of us have made such a high profile oops as one person who was trying to email Uber and accidentally copied someone who works at Google’s Waymo.
This could be the email heard across the United States, and it might undo all the dreams of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick or at least delay all of his plans regarding a self-driving taxi service.
Waymo versus Uber
Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet/ Google, is suing Uber for allegedly stealing its technology. Much of the case rests on an email that was sent to a Waymo employee by one of the company’s vendors in December. That email was called “OTTO FILES,” and it was apparently a discussion thread among the vendor’s team members who work with Uber, according to the complaint.
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The email contained an attachment of a machine drawing for a circuit board that was purportedly designed by Otto, a company Uber acquired. However, the board reportedly “bore a striking resemblance to – and shared several unique characteristics with – Waymo’s highly confidential current-generation LiDAR circuit board,” the lawsuit claims.
Otto founder accused of stealing from Waymo
But the plot thickens even more. Otto’s founder, Anthony Levandowski, was an engineer at Waymo until January 2016 when he resigned. He founded Otto last year and then raked in $680 million by selling it to Uber last summer. According to the lawsuit, before he left, Levandowski downloaded thousands of design files pertaining to Google’s self-driving car project on his company laptop. Then he allegedly put a memory card reader into that laptop and then wiped the data from it, according to the suit. Two other former Waymo employees are also accused of stealing documents from the company right before they left.
And now Waymo is alleging that Uber stole its trade secrets and is infringing upon its patents. The Alphabet/ Google division is seeking an injunction and damages, both of which would be major setbacks for Uber. Neither side is going to back down on this one because the autonomous car space is expected to be a massive industry, and what’s at stake is pole position in the race.