Tech giants Uber and Google have reached a settlement in the stolen self-driving tech lawsuit.
A mere five days after the trial began between ride-hailing company Uber and Google’s (or should we say “Alphabet Corporation’s”) self-driving car unit Waymo, the two companies have reached a legal agreement to end their dispute.
In a move that is sure to seem like a loss for Uber, the company has agreed to pay Waymo 0.34 percent of its current market valuation (which amounts to $245 million) as well as a promise to not use Waymo’s proprietary technology in their self-driving cars. In return, Waymo drops the lawsuit.
As bad as it looks for Uber, it could have been a lot worse. Uber admits no wrongdoing on their part, and they can still stay in the self-driving car business when, for a moment there, it looked like they might have been legally shut out for good.
The whole caper began with one man: Anthony Levandowski, a former Google employee who allegedly made off with thousands of internal digital files when he left the company to start his own self-driving car company, Otto. Uber later bought Otto for their own self-driving car research, and by all accounts gave them a foot in the automated-car door when previously they were only good at making humans do the heavy lifting.
Levandowski remained at Uber until one day an email was mistakenly sent to Waymo that had suspiciously familiar design documents in the attachments. This tipped off Waymo to perform an internal investigation, where they found the digital handprints of Levandowski and promptly sued Uber.
Uber, performing its due diligence, also performed an internal investigation to see where those files came from. Eventually, Uber execs came to Levandowski and asked him if he’d taken those files from Waymo. Levandowski pleaded the fifth, so they fired him.
Unfortunately for Uber, the whole situation still has pretty terrible optics, so the $245 million settlement is probably the best they could have hoped for. Now they can still reverse-engineer the Waymo tech they allegedly got through dirty deeds and can have their engineers make something similar but legally different in their own self-driving cars.
In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote, "While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward. I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology."