Waymo


'Waymo' Articles

Uber and Waymo Agree to Settle Case Involving Uber's Alleged Theft of Self-Driving Technology

Over the past five days, Uber and Waymo have been entangled in a court case over Waymo's allegations that Uber stole its self-driving LiDAR system. Today, the two companies have announced that they reached a settlement agreement, under which Uber will pay Waymo a 0.34 equity stake, "amounting to about $245 million at Uber's recent $72 billion valuation" (via CNBC). Additionally, Uber has agreed that it will not incorporate Waymo's self-driving technology into any of its own hardware or software. Alongside the settlement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a letter that the company "does not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber," nor that Waymo's tech was used by Uber in any way, but expressed regret for the ongoing trial over the past year and the events that led up to it. 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. While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward. I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology. Waymo's lawsuit concerned Uber and its acquisition of self-driving trucking startup Otto, with Waymo believing that employees at Otto

Waymo Begins Testing Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service With No Safety Drivers Behind the Wheel

Last month, self-driving company Waymo began operating autonomous minivans on public roads in Arizona, in tests that were conducted without a safety driver "or any human at all" behind the steering wheel. Today, the Google-owned company announced it's now beginning the first steps toward launching a ride-hailing service backed by a fleet of completely self-driving vehicles (via The Verge). To start, Waymo will begin testing the autonomous driving service with its employees in Chandler, Arizona, then expand to members of Waymo's Early Rider program before finally seeing a public launch in the town sometime in the next few months. Users will hail the vans through the Waymo app and when they arrive there won't be any safety drivers or other humans in the driver's seat, but a Waymo employee will still sit in the backseat. The test vans will be able to travel anywhere within a geofenced 100-square-mile radius of Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. While there are understandable caveats to Waymo's ride hailing service tests, it is notable as the company's first time achieving Level 4 autonomy, where a vehicle is expected to perform "safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip" without someone behind the wheel. The next step for Waymo is a big one: a commercial ride-hail service, in which riders can hail one of the company’s autonomous minivans via an app like Uber or Lyft. “People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles, to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands,” Krafcik said. Waymo has

Uber Fires Engineer Accused of Stealing Self-Driving Secrets From Waymo

In the ongoing legal battle between Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo, Uber announced this week that it has fired Anthony Levandowski, the engineer accused of stealing Waymo's self-driving intellectual property when he left his job at Google to start his own company, Otto (via The New York Times). In the original lawsuit, Waymo claimed that when Uber acquired Otto, Levandowski's stolen trade secrets came with the purchase, mainly centering around Waymo's LiDAR system. In the months following Waymo's filing, Uber denied the accusations and "pressured Mr. Levandowski to cooperate" with the court. When he was ordered by a federal judge to give the court any evidence related to Waymo's accusations, as well as a testimony, he was said to have asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in order to avoid self-incrimination. The judge gave Levandowski an internal deadline to hand over the evidence in question, and when he missed it Uber decided to fire him. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (left) and former employee Anthony Levandowski (right) According to legal analysts watching the case, if Levandowski continued to be employed by Uber, "the company risked being tarnished...as if it were indirectly condoning his actions." “Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently,” Angela L. Padilla, Uber’s associate general counsel for employment and litigation, wrote in an email to employees. “Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to

Lyft and Waymo Announce Partnership That Will Bring Autonomous Vehicle Program to Mainstream

After opening up a self-driving car program to the public in Phoenix, Arizona last month, Alphabet-owned Waymo has now officially partnered with ride-hailing app Lyft (via The New York Times). The two will work together in order "to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream" by launching various pilot projects and helping one another to develop products for the mass market. Like its rival Uber, Lyft has been looking into autonomous vehicle technology recently, but the company lacked extensive research and development it needed to launch a self-driving car program on a wide scale. Waymo has that tech, but doesn't have the reach of Lyft, which currently operates in approximately 300 cities in the United States. In a statement, Lyft said that the partnership will help forward a "shared vision" that each company has of a self-driving future. As The New York Times pointed out, it also suggests that Waymo thinks its self-driving-car technology "has moved past the research stage and is ready to be applied commercially." “Waymo holds today’s best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world’s best transportation,” a Lyft spokeswoman said in a statement. A Waymo spokesman said, “Lyft’s vision and commitment to improving the way cities move will help Waymo’s self-driving technology reach more people, in more places.” The specifics of what type of vehicles and products that drivers and riders might see from the collaboration were left unconfirmed, as was a launch window for any

U.S. Prosecutors to Investigate Uber's Alleged Theft of Waymo's Self-Driving Trade Secrets

A U.S. judge presiding over Waymo's trade-secrets theft lawsuit against Uber has asked federal prosecutors to investigate the claims in the case, it emerged on Thursday (via Bloomberg). U.S. district judge William Alsup also partially granted Waymo's bid for an injunction against Uber's self-driving efforts, and rejected Uber's arguments that the trade secret allegations should proceed in private. Google's self-driving Waymo car division originally filed the lawsuit against Uber in February, accusing the company of stealing its self-driving intellectual property. Specifically, former Google employee Anthony Levandowski is accused of stealing 14,000 confidential files that included data on Waymo's laser-based radar (LiDAR) system, which the company called "one of the most powerful parts" of its self-driving technology. In referring the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Alsup said that in the absence of "smoking gun" proof of wrongdoing by Uber, he was not taking a position on whether or not charges are warranted, but noted there was "ample evidence" that Levandowski had breached his duty of loyalty to Waymo. Uber declined to comment on the referral to prosecutors, while Levandowski has already recused himself from LiDAR-related work while the case is ongoing, but the news is yet another setback for the ride-hailing service as it attempts to revive its tarnished image following multiple controversies over recent months. The Department of Justice is already investigating the company over its use of "secret" software that allowed its drivers to

Waymo Opens Up Self-Driving Car Program to the Public in Phoenix Following Initial Success

For the last month, Waymo has been testing out a small fleet of self-driving vehicles with a handful of participating residents in Phoenix, Arizona, and this week the company has noted the success of that test by opening up applications to join its autonomous car program to all Phoenix citizens. Dubbed the "early rider program" and stocked by 600 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Waymo said it will be accepting "hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs" into the program. The Waymo trial is extensive, offering those participating full-time, on-demand access to one of the self-driving minivans, which can drive the participants anywhere within the targeted area, equivalent to "about twice the size of San Francisco." Waymo said that its intention in the test is to really delve into the reasons why people would prefer using an autonomous vehicle over a traditional car. In a new video posted today to highlight Waymo's self-driving van, one of the first families in the program mention small but meaningful advantages like taking stress from traffic out of the equation, and not having to ask a parent for a ride every day. Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world — through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more. Self-driving cars have the potential to reshape each and every one of these areas, transforming our lives and our cities by making them safer, more convenient and more accessible. Now, the early rider program is open up to the Phoenix

Alphabet's Waymo Accuses Uber of Stealing Self-Driving LiDAR System

Google parent company Alphabet's self-driving Waymo car division today filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Uber, accusing the company of stealing its self-driving intellectual property. In blog post shared this afternoon, Waymo explains that employees of Otto, a self-driving trucking startup recently acquired by Uber, allegedly stole technical information from Google's autonomous car project, something it equates to "stealing a secret recipe from a beverage company." Specifically, former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who co-founded Otto, is accused of stealing 14,000 confidential files that included data on the laser-based radar system used in Waymo vehicles. Waymo conducted a forensic investigation of Levandowski's former computer after accidentally receiving an email of Otto's LiDAR circuit board, which closely resembled Waymo's design.We found that six weeks before his resignation this former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo's various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo's LiDAR and circuit board. To gain access to Waymo's design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo's highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.According to Waymo, its LiDAR system is "one

Google's Waymo Unveils Fleet of Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivans

Google spin-off Waymo unveiled its fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a preview event ahead of the North American International Auto Show on Sunday (via USA Today). John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, told attendees at the Detroit event that the fleet packs an array of new sensors that were all developed in-house, including an enhanced vision system, improved radar and laser-based lidar. "We're serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people, and to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware," said Krafcik.The autonomous vehicles are the result of a partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler that was agreed last spring, and represent the first time Google has chosen to build self-driving technology itself, rather than turn to third-party manufacturers. As a result, Waymo said the company had been able to cut costs by 90 percent. But apart from cutting costs, Krafcik told attendees that building the hardware in-house had allowed the company to develop better technology, such as an improved rooftop radar system, or Lidar, that allows the cars to read more information off the environment. "The detail we capture is so high that not only can we detect pedestrians all around us, but we can tell which direction they’re facing," said Krafcik. "This is incredibly important, as it helps us more accurately predict where someone will walk next." The hybrid vehicles will join the company's Lexus SUVs and Firefly vehicles on public roads in California and Arizona later this month to