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Self-Driving Car Company Waymo Sues Autonomous Truck Startup Otto and Parent Uber

Waymo, the former self-driving vehicle unit of Google, is reportedly suing self-driving truck company Otto, which was co-founded by ex-Waymo worker Anthony Levandowski, over allegations Otto stole its proprietary design for a radar system.

According to a report in Re/Code, Waymo is accusing Levandowski of downloading 14,000 highly confidential files to an external hard drive before leaving the company, some of which included the design for Waymo’s LiDAR circuit board. Re/Code noted Waymo opted to do a forensic inquiry of Levandowski’s computer after a Waymo employee accidentally copied on an email from a LiDAR supplier that had the subject “Otto Files.” Re/Code reported the email was sent to people Waymo thinks are working with Uber, and it included an attachment of drawings of Otto’s LiDAR circuit board.

In the lawsuit, Waymo says the design was identical to the one Levandowski downloaded from Waymo servers before quitting the company. “The Replicated Board reflects Waymo’s highly confidential proprietary LiDAR technology and Waymo trade secrets,” the complaint states in the report. “Moreover, the Replicated Board is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with many other Waymo trade secrets and in the context of overall LiDAR systems covered by Waymo patents.”

Waymo is seeking damages from both Otto and Uber for what it contends is stolen trade secrets, unfair competition and infringement on patents. In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said, “We have reviewed Waymo’s claims and determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor, and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court. In the meantime, we will continue our hard work to bring self-driving benefits to the world.”

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