Uber will be facing Waymo over its self-driving program on Wednesday. The ride-sharing service will appear before a U.S. judge to fight for the right to continue the program. Waymo, an autonomous car maker spun out of Google, has accused the ride-sharing firm of stealing trade secrets.
Uber could face dire consequences
For the first time, each side will lay out their case before U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup at the hearing on Wednesday. Alsup is popular for learning the Java computer language while presiding over the Google vs. Oracle case a few years ago, notes Business Insider.
Uber will frame the development of its technology as “existential” to its ride-hailing business’ future.
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“This is not your garden variety trade secrets case. This is a case that involves what potentially may be the most lucrative business in history, and Google is trying to keep its main competitor on the sidelines,” the ride-sharing service said in its court filings previously.
Uber insists that a court order compelling it to stop its research could also thwart its efforts to catch up to the progress that other companies are making with the passing days. If the judge issues an order against the company, it will be forced to shut down its self-driving car program while the court proceedings continue.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that though self-driving cars are still in their starting stages, they are critical to the company’s long-term success and future growth. Uber’s $68 billion valuation is supported in part by investors’ belief that it will be a dominant player in the emerging business of autonomous vehicles, notes Fortune. Uber, which began working on self-driving tech six years after Google, currently has self-driving tests underway in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.
Waymo could thwart Uber’s self-driving program
Google’s self-driving car unit has accused current Uber executive and former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski of stealing trade secrets from Waymo and using them to assist in its self-driving car development. If the court rules that Uber and Levandowski really conspired to steal the technical information, then the ride-sharing service will face dire consequences.
According to Fortune, New York University Professor Arun Sundararajan, author of the book The Sharing Economy, notes that the ride-hailing company has more at stake than its competitors..
“If Google can’t launch their self-driving car for 10 years instead of five, this will be a little blip in Google’s multibillion-dollar revenue. Uber is the one that really depends on it,” the professor says.
Even though the judge is not expected to rule the case immediately on Wednesday, the proceedings today may hint at which way he is leaning. Last month at a hearing, Alsup warned the ride-sharing company that it may face an injunction. Referring to the evidence gathered by Waymo, the judge said that he has never seen a record this strong in 42 years, notes Fortune.