Self-driving technology is becoming much more prominent and more of a reality than sci-fi. Several states including California and Michigan, are giving permissions to self-driving technology companies to test their vehicles on the streets. But, before self-driving cars can actually hit the streets, legal boundaries must be set to stop any copyright of patented technology. Two of the main competitors in the self-driving technology industry, Google and Uber, are attempting to take up a big portion of the developing market. With such intense competition, any advantage that one company could get over the other can completely change the development of the market. Google had accused one of its own engineers of stealing confidential information.
Waymo, the self-driving company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, accused Uber of indirectly stealing Google’s proprietary self-driving technology. The engineer that had stolen information from Google had started his own self-driving company. But, shortly after, Uber had acquired the new startup, giving Uber indirect access to Google’s self-driving technology.
Google has been developing its self-driving technology for the better part of the past decade and is planning to license the technology to other companies through Waymo. There is also a possibility of Waymo developing its own “ride-hailing service” driven by self-driving technology to compete directly with Uber.
On the other hand, Uber has only developed its self-driving technology recently, compared to Google. In contrast to Google, Uber is focusing on taking logical steps for the security of its business. Self-driving technology would allow Uber to potentially cut all shares of revenue given to drivers. But, the only way to make this happen is if Uber releases its self-driving technology and implements its widespread use. Without being first, Uber risks being at a significant disadvantage.
Today, Google and Uber are part of one of the largest and most-watched “battles” in Silicon Valley in years. Both sides have arguments that could potentially alter the outcome of the lawsuit.
Waymo accuses Anthony Levandowski, an engineer working at the forefront of Google’s developing self-driving technology, of downloading over 9.7 gigabytes of files containing Waymo’s proprietary “lidar system,” or a sensory system that allows self-driving vehicles to visualize the surroundings, a crucial part to self-driving cars. Waymo also discussed how it received an email from one of Uber/Otto’s suppliers for lidar equipment, containing a design very similar to Waymo’s. After a thorough investigation, Waymo concluded that Levandowski had illegally transferred data from Google’s servers to an external drive, allowing him to use Google’s technology outside of his workplace.
Although Uber has not issued an official response to Waymo’s accusations, people have suggested that Levandowski will talk about how he had taken the files to work at home. Uber went on to say that the accusations were a “baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”
But, Google’s parent company Alphabet had invested $258 million for 7% stake of Uber. at a $3.5 billion evaluation. Today, Uber is worth approximately $69 billion and is a direct competitor to Google’s self-driving technology. The tension between the two companies is growing and it is clearly evident. In August of 2016, David Drummond, an Alphabet executive and part of Uber’s board, had left because the competition between the two companies had grown.
The next step of the conflict between Google and Uber will be Uber’s legal filing in response to Waymo’s lawsuit. Uber’s lawyer announced that the company’s response will be released within the next two weeks. So far, the only response that Uber may have is Levandowski’s statement of how he downloaded the files to his computer to work from home.
Featured Image via Wikimedia.