Judge Halts Waymo-Uber Showdown Amid Allegations of Uber Cover-up

Judge Halts Waymo-Uber Showdown Amid Allegations of Uber Cover-up

Jury selection was set to begin November 29 in a case over Waymo's allegations that Uber stole trade secrets covering its autonomous driving technology.

Jacobs testified at the hearing that the letter contained allegations that Uber's markets analytics group "exists expressly for the goal for acquiring trade secrets, code base and competitive intelligence". The letter-which was obtained by the US Attorneys Office during a criminal investigation separate from Waymo's lawsuit-says that Uber's Marketplace Analytics team worked on secret servers and devices that couldn't be traced to Uber in order to dig up information, private code, and trade secrets from competitors.

"If half of what's in that letter is true, it would be a huge injustice to Waymo to have to go to trial", Alsup said.

The delay gives Waymo ― a self-driving vehicle business owned by Google's parent company ― time to investigate numerous bombshell allegations revealed in court Tuesday and (presumably) bolster its case.

On Tuesday, Jacobs also testified Uber had retained him to consult on issues surrounding his resignation. Law enforcement shared the letter with U.S. District Judge William Alsup last week, reports Reuters.

The investigation hadn't been publicly known until Tuesday, when it surfaced in a court hearing that was supposed to set the stage for a trial pitting Uber against Waymo, a self-driving vehicle pioneer that started within Google eight years ago. He was asked by a lawyer for Waymo about a staff attorney at Uber who allegedly guided efforts to "impede, obstruct, or influence" lawsuits against the company.




Jacobs is said to claimed that his unit was told not to "create a paper trail that could come back to haunt Uber" - although where and how Jacobs made that claim is unclear since all the documents are under seal and neither the judge nor Waymo lawyer referenced where the information had come from. He also said that he was unemployed but appears to be on a million-dollar "consulting" contract with Uber that has an additional $1.5m payout at the end of that agreement.

The hearing on Tuesday gave Alsup reason to doubt Uber's testimony. The letter reportedly had several bombshell revelations, including methods that Uber instructed employees to evade investigations. The judge also called Uber's espionage team "a plumber's unit doing bad deeds".

"We're going to have to put the trial off", Alsup said. "And there is a 50-50 chance that this will turn out to be a dry hole". A new start date hasn't been set. After Levandowski left Google in 2016 (before parent company Alphabet spun Waymo into its own company), he launched the autonomous truck company Otto and sold it to Uber.

Waymo has estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion and wants to curtail Uber's self-driving auto program, which Waymo says uses its technology.

Uber identified employees at rival companies it believed it could flip in pursuit of competitors' secrets.

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