Waymo, a standalone unite of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has filed a lawsuit against Uber's self-driving vehicle unite, Otto, in a dramatic development where an email exchange revealed "striking resemblance" between the two self-driving car projects, suggestion infringement of classified patents.
The lawsuit claims that a former Google employee, Waymo's manager Anthony Levandowski, "downloaded more than 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary files shortly before his resignation."
The technology that Google claims was stolen and used with no authorization by Otto, is LiDAR, which is a laser-based radar system that is used as "eyes" for self-driving cars. The email that revealed the potential legal violations included machine drawings of Ott's LiDAR circuit board.
Waymo representatives explained in a statement, "We found that six weeks before his resignation this former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo's various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo's LiDAR and circuit board. To gain access to Waymo's design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo's highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints. "
Google and Uber have a long collaborative history and business ties. Google's venture capital division invested in Uber, and Alphabet executive David Drummond previously sat on Uber's Board.