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Dispute heats up between Uber, Waymo over self-driving technology

In this Dec. 13 photo, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s self-driving program, speaks about their driverless car in San Francisco. In sworn statements filed Friday, Waymo, a self-driving car company founded by Google, presented new evidence to support its allegations that former manager Levandowski stole technology that Uber bought to help build robot-powered vehicles for its ride-hailing service. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
In this Dec. 13 photo, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s self-driving program, speaks about their driverless car in San Francisco. In sworn statements filed Friday, Waymo, a self-driving car company founded by Google, presented new evidence to support its allegations that former manager Levandowski stole technology that Uber bought to help build robot-powered vehicles for its ride-hailing service. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
By Steven Overly The Washington Post

Self-driving car company Waymo asked a judge to bar Uber from continuing to make or use self-driving technology that the company claims was stolen by former employees, according to court documents.

Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, also requested that Uber return more than 14,000 documents that it says contain intellectual property and trade secrets in in Friday’s filing in a San Francisco court.

The allegations, first revealed last month, pit two of Silicon Valley’s leading autonomous technology companies in what could likely become a major legal battle.

In its initial lawsuit, Waymo accused former Google employee Anthony Levandowski of illegally downloading the documents from Google’s server before leaving the company. Levandowski started a self-driving vehicle company called Otto, which Uber later acquired for $680 million.

Friday’s filings named two other employees, Sameer Kshirsagar and Radu Raduta, who are alleged to have taken documents improperly. Both men left Waymo to work for Otto and then Uber.

A representative for Uber did not respond to a request for interviews with Levandowski, Kshirsagar and Raduta.

“Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions,” Waymo said in a statement Friday. “Given the strong evidence we have, we are asking the court to step in to protect intellectual property developed by our engineers over thousands of hours and to prevent any use of that stolen IP.”

Waymo’s court filing also included heavily-redacted testimony from three Waymo employees who claim to have proof that the documents were taken off Google’s servers improperly.

An Uber representative said the company was reviewing the latest complaint, but stood by its initial response to the allegations.

“We are incredibly proud of the progress that our team has made,” the statement read. “We have reviewed Waymo’s claims and determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court. In the meantime, we will continue our hard work to bring self-driving benefits to the world.”

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