Waymo accepts $245 million and Uber's 'regret'

Agreement reached to settle self-driving car dispute

FILE PHOTO: An Uber sign is seen in a car in New York, U.S. June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: An Uber sign is seen in a car in New York, U.S. June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber Technologies will pay $245 million worth of its own shares to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit to settle a legal dispute over trade secrets.

The settlement announcement on Friday was made just before the fifth day of testimony was about to begin at a jury trial in San Francisco federal court.

Waymo sued Uber last year, saying that one of its former engineers who became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents.

The lawsuit cost Uber precious time in its self-driving car ambitions, a key to its long-term profitability.

Uber fired its self-driving chief after Waymo sued, and it is well behind on its plans to deploy fleets of autonomous cars in one of the most lucrative races in Silicon Valley.

The settlement now allows Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to put another scandal behind the company and move ahead with development of self-driving technology after the tumultuous leadership of the firm by former CEO Travis Kalanick, who testified at the trial on Tuesday and Wednesday.

As part of the deal, Uber agreed to pay equity valued at about $245 million, a Waymo representative said. The settlement also includes an agreement to ensure Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated into Uber technology, a Waymo representative said.

In settlement talks last year, Waymo had sought at least $1 billion from Uber, and wanted an independent monitor to ensure Uber does not use Waymo technology in the future, Reuters reported. Waymo also asked for an apology.

Waymo had agreed earlier this week to a settlement proposal valued at $500 million, but Uber’s board rejected those terms on Tuesday, two sources familiar with the negotiations said.

By late Thursday, Waymo had agreed to the $245 million deal, one of the sources said.

Khosrowshahi expressed “regret” for the company’s actions in a statement on Friday.

“While we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

Neither company offered details on what those steps will entail.

Waymo’s lawsuit said that Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving car chief Uber eventually fired, downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files containing designs for autonomous vehicles in December 2015 before he went on to work at Uber in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate, criminal investigation into the trade secrets. Levandowski publicly hasn’t addressed the allegations of taking the documents and law enforcement has not charged anyone with their theft.

Levandowski was not a defendant in the case.

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