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Waymo and Uber Head for a Self-Driving Car Crash in Court

Both companies have a lot to lose.
relates to Waymo and Uber Head for a Self-Driving Car Crash in Court
Illustration: Nejc Prah

There’s a month to go before the trial starts, but in many ways Waymo can already count its trade-secrets lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. as a win. The unusually speedy pretrial discovery process has yielded a steady drip of embarrassing revelations for Uber. It’s forced the ride-hailing company to fire the head of its driverless car division. And it’s contributed to the ouster of Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, now the most highly anticipated witness in a case that could reshape the nascent market for self-driving car technology.

But Waymo, the company formed from the Google Inc. self-driving car project, hasn’t won yet. There are no more fact discovery hearings before the trial begins on Oct. 10, and Waymo is running out of time to locate the 14,000 computer files it claims engineer Anthony Levandowski stole while in its employ and transferred to Uber’s driverless program, which he took over last year. Without that smoking gun, Waymo, a unit of Alphabet Inc., may have a tough time directly tying Levandowski’s actions to Uber’s alleged trade-secret theft, forcing it to try to convince a jury using strong but circumstantial evidence.