Uber vs Waymo: The Battle of LIDAR
When does it stop for Uber? I mean how much trouble can one company get into before hitting Enron status? If you haven't been reading the latest, Uber is now being accused of hiding a trade secret theft in the ongoing court battle Waymo has waged against them. Of course Uber is emphatically denying such claims, but at this point does anyone believe them? Waymo doesn't and they are going for the throat of the ride hailing company methodically.
Waymo, in court, accused Uber of hiding a light detection and ranging device or LIDAR for short. LIDAR serves as the autonomous vehicle's eyes and allows it to detect lights and distance of obstacles in order for the car to initiate the correct action. Of course we all learned from TESLA that these LIDARs don't always work, especially if the truck trailer is white and directly in the sunlight. The reason why this LIDAR is so important to Waymo, is because they are alleging that former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski developed said LIDAR on Google equipment. This is a big no-no if you didn't already know. It is kind of like stealing the recipe for the lemonade being sold at the stand next door, and using it to make your own sales, just on a way bigger scale.
Alphabet, Google's parent company (which makes them Waymo's grandparent company?), has provided the court with documents that contain information intended to convince a federal judge to ban Levandowski from working on the self-driving project that Uber established after buying Otto, the self driving truck company. It just so happens Otto was founded by Levandowski after he left Google, then he was hired by Uber to head the division after they acquired it. On the bright side, if they go to self-driving cars, Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, wont be able to yell, curse and insult any more drivers.
Waymo claims that Levandowski walked off with 9.7 gigabytes, approximately 14K files, containing the ever so heralded self-driving technology. They go on to allege that Levandowski transferred said files from his laptop to an external storage device. Once he had the goods, he walked out the door on his resignation day and started the self-driving truck company called Otto.
Uber has had some bad crap coming down on them lately, and to be honest, they have done it to themselves. You can't be discriminating and sexually harassing women in the workplace, or having your CEO yelling and cursing at drivers when they are on camera. You want bad PR? Because this is how you get bad PR. They have been fighting an uphill battle for a while now, and to add on salt to the wound, over 150K Uber app users deleted the app from their devices in order to follow a hashtag that told them to delete it. I guess some people just have to fit in with the crowd.
The crazy thing about all of this self-driving car stuff is there are prototypes already keeping the asphalt hot. This isn't a matter of getting the technology out the road first, it's about two companies trying to get into the exploding market in order to own it. What you may not know, is Google and Uber are the two giants standing at the front of the line of the development of this technology. Uber may be just trying to ensure they are the only one standing at the end of the day. The problem is Uber is wounded and is doing everything to tread water.
Waymo, on the other hand, has hit them at the right time. They smelled the blood in the water and attacked as fast as they could. Why you may ask? Well the CEO of Uber went on national television and admitted he needed help with management. This probably tells Waymo that Uber may not be able to handle any more pressure. Even if they don't win in the courtroom, they may do enough overall damage to have won on the streets. And that is all Waymo wants, to win on the streets, which would be lined with their self-driving cars.
Bottom line is this fight has already became less than professional. In fact, because the stakes are so high, this fight is becoming more personal as the days go by. It was strong enough for Google to go after Uber, but to attack one of its own rock stars in engineering, well that is as personal as it gets. I have to hand it to Google, they are cutting Uber's legs out from under them slow and easy to ensure they never walk again.
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