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The war between Google and Uber is finally over

Settlement leaves Google with a small stake in Uber.

by Noah Kulwin
Feb 9 2018, 4:30pm

Google vs. Uber had all the makings of a legal showdown for the ages. Google, which previously invested in Uber, sued the startup in 2017 for stealing secrets and using them to gain an advantage in a race to develop self-driving car tech. Uber said that even though it hired a key Google self-driving car engineer, no secrets were stolen.

But the two Silicon Valley titans have decided to bury the hatchet, after nearly a year since Google first filed suit, shocking journalists and others present in the courtroom on Friday morning.

Under the reported terms of the agreement, Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo will receive at least a .34 percent equity stake in Uber, which would translate to around $245 million, and Uber will not use any of Google’s intellectual property in its own self-driving efforts.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged that Waymo’s case “raised some hard questions” for the ride-hailing juggernaut in a statement emailed to VICE News.

“To be clear, 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.

A representative for Waymo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The crux of the case involved the departure of Google’s lead self-driving car engineer, Anthony Levandowski in early 2016 to create his own autonomous driving truck startup Otto. At the time, court documents later revealed, Levandowski was already talking with then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about joining Uber and taking a number of key Google engineers with him.

In August 2016, Uber formally announced the $680 million acquisition of Otto and began giving journalists rides in its self-driving cars a month later.

By February, a Google investigation (its self-driving car unit by then rechristened as Waymo) determined that Levandowski had conspired to jump ship to Uber, and that he had taken Google-patented designs for Lidar — the imaging system used by many self-driving cars — with him when he left.

Ultimately, as the case proceeded after Waymo filed the lawsuit at the end of February 2017, Levandowski started to decline answering questions, citing the Fifth Amendment. Uber fired him in May, and Kalanick resigned a month later, as other scandals swirling around the once-hot startup continued piling up.

Cover: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick leaves the Philip Burton Federal Building after testifying on day two of the trial between Waymo and Uber Technologies on February 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)