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Alphabet's self-driving car unit sues Uber over stolen trade secrets

Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Alexandria Sage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet's (GOOGL.O) Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] and its autonomous trucking subsidiary Otto in federal court on Thursday over allegations of theft of its confidential and proprietary sensor technology.

Waymo accused Uber and Otto, acquired by the ride services company in August, with stealing confidential information on Waymo's Lidar sensor technology to help speed its own efforts in autonomous technology.

Uber and Otto did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"While Waymo developed its custom LiDAR systems with sustained effort over many years, defendants leveraged stolen information to shortcut the process and purportedly build a comparable LiDAR system in only nine months," the complaint in the Northern District of California said.

Waymo is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and a court order preventing Uber from using its proprietary information.

Otto launched with much fanfare in May, due in part to the high profile of one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, who had been an executive on Google's self-driving project. Uber acquired the company in August for what Waymo said in the lawsuit was $680 million.

Waymo said that before Levandowski's resignation in January 2016 from Google, whose self-driving unit was renamed Waymo in December, he downloaded over 14,000 confidential files, including Lidar circuit board designs. Lidar is a main component of autonomous driving systems that bounces light pulses off objects to help vehicles know where they are on the road.

Waymo accused Levandowski of attempting to "erase any forensic fingerprints" via a reformat of his laptop.


(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by Grant McCool)