Uber returns self-driving cars to testing in San Francisco

Screengrab via WIRED/YouTube

Uber says in response to lawsuit it might not survive without self-driving cars

Is Uber fighting for its life?


Josh Katzowitz


Uber loses billions of dollars a year, and the first quarter of 2017 hasn’t been kind to the ride-sharing company either.

Now, Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, is trying to stop Uber from producing self-driving cars, because Waymo believes Uber is using stolen technology. Making matters even harsher for Uber, the company claimed in court Friday that an inability to continue working on its self-driving car technology could affect whether Uber survives.

“To hinder Uber’s continued progress in its independent development of an in-house lidar that is fundamentally different than Waymo’s, when Uber has not used any of Waymo’s trade secrets, would impede Uber’s efforts to remain a viable business, stifle the talent and ingenuity that are the primary drivers of this emerging industry, and risk delaying the implementation of technology that could prevent car accidents,” Uber said.

Waymo filed the lawsuit in February, saying that a former employee used stolen files that helped Uber in developing its self-driving technology. Waymo also said Uber’s lidar circuit board had a similar design to Waymo.

But Uber countered saying its lidar design has a four-lens design while Waymo only uses one lens. It also claimed the files downloaded by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who now runs Uber’s program, never was given to Uber.

“Waymo’s injunction motion is a misfire: There is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber’s servers, and Waymo’s assertion that our multi-lens lidar is the same as their single-lens lidar is clearly false,” Uber’s associate general counsel Angela Padilla said in a statement, via Business Insider. “If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction. Waymo doesn’t meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation—probably Waymo’s goal in the first place.”

As for why the self-driving car is such a big component of Uber’s plan, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said this to Business Insider in 2016: “I think it starts with understanding that the world is going to go self-driving and autonomous. Because, well, a million fewer people are going to die a year. Traffic in all cities will be gone. Significantly reduced pollution and trillions of hours will be given back to people — quality of life goes way up. Once you go, “All right, there’s a lot of upsides there” and you have folks like the folks in Mountain View, [California,] a few different companies working hard on this problem, this thing is going to happen. So if that’s happening, what would happen if we weren’t a part of that future? If we weren’t part of the autonomy thing? Then the future passes us by, basically, in a very expeditious and efficient way.”

It has been a rough few months for Uber.

The company’s self-released diversity report showed very little diversity at all, the company’s executives have endured an escort bar scandal, and there have been claims of rampant sexual harassment within the company.

Last month, Uber had to suspend self-driving car tests after one of its cars was involved in a crash in Arizona, though testing resumed soon after.

H/T Business Insider

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