Uber has always been considered the enemy by taxi companies, but recently the public has began turning on the company as well. With support for the ride-hailing service seemingly lower than ever, this is a less than ideal time for it to be facing an intellectual property lawsuit from one of its biggest competitors.
Alphabet Inc. filed a lawsuit against Uber in February, alleging the company’s autonomous vehicle systems are based on intellectual property stolen by Otto CEO Anthony Levandowski during his time at Google, according to Bloomberg.
Google reportedly began investigating him during the summer when Otto, his self-driving truck company, was purchased by Uber for $700 million just a month after opening its doors. While heading the lidar team for Google’s driverless car program — now Waymo — the suit claims the investigation revealed Levandowski downloaded 14,000 design files from his work laptop to a memory card.
After the suit was filed, Levandowski reportedly defended himself at an Uber company meeting, saying he downloaded the files in question to work from home. However, Google noted he wiped the data from his laptop shortly after downloading them.
The most potentially damning bit of evidence, though, comes from an email Google reportedly received from one of its suppliers Dec. 13. The email, which had the subject line”Otto Files,” included drawings of a lidar circuit board that was nearly itentical to Google’s.
These allegations add to what’s already been a fairly rough year for Uber. It is being sued for alleged sexual discrimination, admitted to using a software program to avoid law enforcement and its CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on video arguing with one of its drivers.
Mounting frustration with Kalanick’s company also caused many to boycott Uber in response to his participation in a forum that’s advising President Donald Trump on economic policies. Other major CEOs such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, General Motors’ Mary Barra, Ford’s Mark Fields and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Sergio Marchionne are also members of the forum, and their companies haven’t faced nearly as much sustained backlash.
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