Uber and Waymo face off in court over stolen self-driving tech

A Uber sign is seen during a news conference in Taipei Taiwan

"They concocted a story for public consumption", said Waymo's lawyer Charles Verhoeven.

Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 to start autonomous truck company Otto, which Uber bought for $680 million in August 2016.

Waymo said Levandowski, who until last week was head of Uber's self-driving vehicle program, stole more than 14,000 confidential documents before leaving his job at Waymo in January 2016. But the judge said Waymo does not "have a smoking gun".

Waymo Inc., the Google Inc. self-driving auto division that was spun out into a separate company in December, filed a lawsuit against Uber in February, accusing the ride-hailing company of stealing confidential files and misappropriating Waymo's LiDAR technology.

In the fight over the future of self-driving vehicles, a bare-knuckled brawl between Uber and Waymo is coming to a head.

The two titans are wrangling in San Francisco federal court over allegations that Uber ripped off trade secrets from Waymo's driverless project. According to Ina Fried, also at the hearing, Waymo produced a "document showing Levandowski got more than 5 million shares of Uber stock that vested the day after he left Google".

"They're really trying to be cute here", Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez said. Referring to the evidence gathered by Waymo, the judge said that he has never seen a record this strong in 42 years, notes Fortune. "A blanket ban on Uber's autonomous efforts would certainly stall its efforts for a while and put it even further behind Waymo and others".

The accusations reveal alleged details on how the act of conspiracy between Levandowski and Uber took place.

Uber's lawyers argued there was no proof that the company had used any Waymo trade secrets. Simply because there were negotiations between Levandowski and Uber prior to him leaving Google does not mean that Uber was aware he was planning to steal trade secrets. Gonzalez said after reviewing more than 300,000 documents, Uber found only one email that's "totally irrelevant to the issues in the case". The only thing that has been proved is that he downloaded 14,000 documents. Complicating matters, Levandowski has asserted his fifth amendment rights and refused to testify.

Taken as a whole, the evidence shows Uber and Levandowski were in cahoots, Verhoeven said. Waymo recently said it will add an additional 500 cars in the coming months.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup told lawyers Wednesday he's torn over what to do in a "hypothetical situation where there's this threat of use" of Alphabet Inc.'s proprietary information, "but it's not yet proven". Verhoeven believes there is proof that Uber is using Waymo trade secrets-whether proof is in those privileged documents or on Levandowski's personal computer, he doesn't know. But he then reiterated that the lack of evidence - due to Levandowski and Uber's refusal to produce information - that Uber was in on the theft, or that Waymo's trade secrets had made it into Uber's LiDAR system, was "a problem".

Uber says it has collectively spent more than 6,000 hours searching for the 14,000 files Levandowski allegedly stole. Uber has already moved Mr Levandowski to a position at the company that does not involve working on Lidar and said it accepted a preliminary injunction that prevented Mr Levandowski from being part of its development.

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