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Fresh lawsuit against Uber for hiding LiDAR technology

IANS | New York |

Google's self-driving car company Waymo has filed new claims in its lawsuit against Uber, alleging that the taxi-ride hailing company withheld information about LiDAR technology it is using in its development of self-driving cars.

According to a report in Tech Crunch, Waymo also claimed in its lawsuit filed on Friday that Uber participated in a "cover up" to keep its second, un-named design hidden from the court. 

In January, Waymo filed a lawsuit against global ride-hailing app Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets and technology from it.

The lawsuit, filed against Uber's self-driving vehicle unit Otto that it bought in 2016 for $680 million, argued that former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski took information when he left the company and later co-founded Otto in January 2016.

However, earlier in April, Uber claimed that its "Light Detection and Ranging" (LiDAR) system, code-named Fuji, was not ready and therefore was not being used in its self-driving cars, which rely instead on commercial systems furnished by Velodyne. 

Waymo argued that Uber worked on a second system that more closely copies Waymo's designs (Waymo's LiDAR relies on a single-lens system, while the Fuji is multi-lens).

In its post in January, Waymo said, "Recently, we uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo's self-driving technology." 

"Today, we're taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents."

The company said that it found that six weeks before his resignation, Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files from Waymo's various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo's custom-built LiDAR and circuit board. 

"To gain access to Waymo's design server, Levandowski searched for and installed specialised software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7GB of Waymo's highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation," the company noted.

Levandowski copied the data to an external drive. He later wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.

"We discovered that other former Waymo employees, now at Otto and Uber, downloaded additional highly confidential information pertaining to our custom-built LiDAR, including supplier lists, manufacturing details and statements of work with highly technical information," the company said. 

Waymo said that given the overwhelming facts that their technology was stolen, they had no choice but to defend their investment and development of this unique technology.