Alleging theft of highly confidential documents by a former employee, Waymo, the self-driving car division of Alphabet, has taken legal action against Uber. The company laid out its decision in a blog post, purporting that Anthony Levandowski, an ex-Waymo employee and co-founder of self-driving truck company Otto, which Uber acquired last year, stole highly confidential documents for Waymo’s LiDAR system, a tool that maps real-world environments for self-driving cars. Waymo was alerted to the theft when one of its suppliers inadvertently emailed the company machine drawings of what's thought to be Uber’s LiDAR circuit board, which bore a striking resemblance to Waymo’s design.
Waymo says it investigated and found evidence that Levandowski used specialized software on a Waymo-issued laptop to access the company’s design server, downloaded almost 10 GB of confidential files and then wiped and reformatted the computer to cover his trail. The company also claims it found evidence of other former employees who now work at Uber and Otto also downloading highly confidential information.
To further complicate the issue, Uber has previously received funding from GV, Alphabet's corporate venture arm. This will undoubtedly be an interesting story to follow as it develops further in the coming days and weeks, as the self-driving car space may now be in the midst of its first major trade-secret scandal.