Ex-CEO is highlight of second day of trial in which Google’s parent alleges Uber stole trade secrets
.. Mr. Levandowski previously has indicated he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Mr. Kalanick has denied any theft in depositions.
.. Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven showed December 2015 meeting notes from former Uber executive John Bares, then the head of the self-driving program, in which Mr. Kalanick appeared to be singularly focused on lidar, as well as intellectual property.
.. Mr. Bares said the company was burning through about $20 million a month trying to develop reliable autonomous vehicles. Relying on Mr. Levandowski’s assistance would help pare the costs by speeding up development
.. Kalanick’s goal of getting 100,000 driverless cars on the road by 2020
.. Autonomous vehicles are essential to Uber’s business, Mr. Bares said, given human drivers account for 70% to 80% of the cost of operating a vehicle in ride-hailing.
.. Still, he acknowledged Google was and remains the leader in self-driving vehicle technology. “That’s the general perception right now,” he said.
The last-minute evidence quickly mounted. A letter and an email full of damning claims. Apps that sent self-destructing messages. A payment of $4.5 million to an employee who threatened to be a whistle-blower — and an additional $3 million to his lawyer.
.. On Wednesday, Judge Alsup continued to upbraid Uber’s lawyers for not being more forthcoming with evidence. “I have never seen a case where there were so many bad things done like Uber has done in this case,” he said.
.. The letter that caused the trial to be delayed was written by a lawyer for Richard Jacobs, a former employee in Uber’s security team, to Angela Padilla, the company’s deputy general counsel. Thirty-seven pages long, it detailed a list of questionable behavior at Uber, including spying on competitors and using special laptop computers and self-destructing messaging apps that would hide communications.
.. On Wednesday, Ms. Padilla testified that the letter, which has not been made public in its entirety, was “clearly extortionist” and filled with “fantastical” information.
.. Mr. Jacobs responded, Ms. Padilla said, by sending an email to Travis Kalanick, the company’s chief executive at the time, and others complaining of criminal and unethical behavior inside Uber.
That email to Mr. Kalanick also didn’t surface in the long evidence discovery process between Waymo and Uber lawyers, and was presented in court for the first time on Wednesday.
.. Judge Alsup said to Ms. Padilla that “on the surface, it looks like you covered this up” and tried to keep the letter out of the hands of Waymo’s lawyers.
.. The company did share the letter from Mr. Jacobs’s lawyer with three different United States attorney offices, because Mr. Jacobs had threatened to take his claims to federal prosecutors and Uber wanted to “take the air out of his extortionist balloon,” Ms. Padilla testified... Judge Alsup questioned why Uber would pay so much to an employee making bogus claims. “To someone like me, an ordinary mortal, and to ordinary mortals out there in the audience — people don’t pay that kind of money for B.S.,” the judge said... A Waymo spokesman, Johnny Luu, said in a statement: “Today’s revelations fit Uber’s pattern of destroying and withholding reams of evidence relevant to our trade secrets case, and that those at the very top of Uber were aware of these inexcusable practices. We look forward to the additional discovery granted by the court and to presenting our case in front of a jury at trial.”
.. Waymo said the report shows Mr. Levandowski stole Google files, accessed them after leaving the company and tried to destroy the evidence. “Knowing all of this, Uber paid $680 million for Mr. Levandowski’s company, protected him from legal action, and installed him as the head of their self-driving-vehicle program,”.. Investigators said in the report that, during one interview, they caught Mr. Levandowski trying to empty the trash bin on his computer. And another former Google employee searched the internet for instructions to secretly delete files from his computer before interviews with investigators, according to the report.
The tech behind Google-Uber legal beef could be ready to boom.. Waymo alleges that six weeks before resigning, Levandowski copied 14,000 confidential files and trade secrets from his company-issued laptop. Among those files were designs for Google’s custom-designed Lidar system, the technology that gives autonomous vehicles their vision... Waymo learned of the alleged theft when a Lidar component supplier inadvertently attached machine drawings of what was said to be Uber’s Lidar circuit board in an email, a design it said is strikingly similar to Waymo’s own unique design... Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is not a fan, and his aversion to Lidar brings up some questions about how widespread its use will be. He believes radar-based visual systems are better, and is focusing on those for Tesla’s self-driving automobiles. Unlike radar, Lidar cannot penetrate fog, heavy rain, or snow, but radar has its own issues, including difficulty detecting non-moving objects and certain materials such as metallic objects... Rasgon believes that radar in conjunction with cameras may become more widely used than Lidar.“Radar is easier, cheaper, more ubiquitous,” he said in an interview. “Ideally, you would want to use the cheapest solution that you can…The performance is very good in Lidar, but if you can get by with cameras and radar, that is probably the best way to go.”.. Google’s Waymo said in the lawsuit that by designing its Lidar systems itself, it has already driven down the costs; its Lidar systems are now less than 10% of the cost of Lidar systems just a few years ago.