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Investigation of new evidence could delay Waymo-Uber legal battle

Image credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

Having acquired new documentation it believes could contain critical evidence, Waymo has requested that legal proceedings against Uber are delayed while investigations continue.

Alphabet’s Waymo – formerly known as the Google self-driving car project – filed a trade secrets lawsuit against Uber in February 2017. According to Waymo, former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files equivalent to 9.7GB of data, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation, before departing and setting up his own self-driving truck company, Otto, which Uber has since acquired.

Uber has denied appropriating Waymo’s trade secrets.

For several months, Waymo has been attempting to obtain a due diligence report completed by Uber in 2016, before the acquisition of Levandowski’s start-up, hoping that the document could reveal the extent to which Uber was aware of Levandowski’s files.

This week, a federal appeals court demanded that Uber discloses the report.

Waymo has said that the report contains “critical” evidence that will require further investigation, which cannot be completed by the time the trial is due to begin. The company has said that further out-of-court testimonies – including those of Levandowski and recently departed Uber CEO Travis Kalanick – must now be completed in light of the disclosure.

The documents contain tens of thousands of pages, and include information collected from Levandowski’s devices.

According to Waymo, the recent acquisition of important new evidence means that legal proceedings should be delayed. Jury selection for San Francisco’s federal court was due to begin on October 10.

“With so much material only now seeing the light of day, Waymo would be unfairly prejudiced if the trial proceeds as initially scheduled on October 10 without additional time to pursue this mountain of new evidence,” Waymo’s representatives wrote in the motion for continuance of trial date. “The evidence Uber and Ottomotto attempted to shield from discovery goes to the heart of the case.”

The high-profile case has set two young tech companies against one other in the race to establish a dominant presence in the emerging autonomous vehicles industry. Traditional automakers, including Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen, are also vying for space in the industry.

Uber – a pioneer in the ‘sharing economy’ – has expanded rapidly since its establishment in 2009. The company has heavily invested in the research and development of autonomous vehicles to add to its fleet of standard private taxis, recruiting talent from universities and other companies.

In December 2016, Uber began using 16 autonomous Volvo XC90s in San Francisco, CA, but were forced to move to Arizona after its registration was revoked.

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