Waymo Alleges Former Self-Driving Engineer Plotted to Sell Trade Secrets to Uber
Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo alleged a former top self-driving car engineer plotted to sell trade secrets and talent to Uber Technologies Inc., according to an updated lawsuit filed Friday against the ride-sharing company.
Waymo also accused two other former employees -- Radu Raduta and Sameer Kshirsagar -- of taking confidential company documents from the Alphabet unit before departing for Uber's Otto autonomous vehicle business.
The amended complaint accelerates a nasty legal spat that began two weeks ago when Waymo's initial suit alleged former engineer Anthony Levandowski stole critical self-driving technology to form Otto, an autonomous trucking startup acquired by Uber. Friday's filings include an injunction asking the court to demand Uber stop using Waymo technology.
Waymo added testimony from an employee called Pierre-Yves Droz that suggests Levandowski plotted to create a new company using Waymo's technology and talent -- knowing ahead of time that Uber would be interested in acquiring it.
Droz, a Waymo engineer who joined Google in 2011, said Levandowski told him about his interest in using lidar technology for a self-driving trucking company, before leaving Waymo to start Otto in 2016. (Lidar is important sensor technology at the heart of most autonomous vehicles).
Droz also said that Levandowski met with Uber executive Brian McClendon in or around the summer of 2015. McClendon ran Google Maps before moving to Uber that year to lead the ride-hailing company's mapping and self-driving division.
Levandowski told Droz "that it would be nice to create a new self-driving car startup and that Uber would be interested in buying the team responsible for the LiDAR we were developing at Google," according to Droz's testimony filed on Friday.
The lawsuit does not claim McClendon told Levandowski Uber would buy his startup. But it does allege Levandowski told his Waymo colleague that, should he depart, Uber would be ready. Uber acquired Otto for $680 million about three months after its launch in 2016.
Before joining Google, Droz helped start 510 Systems, a robotics startup. His co-founder was Levandowski.
A spokeswoman for Uber declined to comment on Friday. Raduta and Kshirsagar did not immediately respond to requests for comment, sent via email and a LinkedIn message.
Waymo, the new business formed from Google's self-driving project, is suing Uber to defend its designs, trade secrets and patents around lidar. After the initial complaint, Uber called it "a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor."