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Uber Ordered To Return 'Pilfered' Self-Driving Car Files To Waymo

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Uber must return files it stole to Waymo, Google's self-driving unit. This is the latest development in the high-stakes battle over intellectual property theft involving Waymo's autonomous driving technology and Uber's alleged use of it to fuel its own self-driving technology.

US Judge: Uber Must Return Stolen Files To Waymo

According to the federal judge who ordered Uber to return the stolen files, the ride-hailing company knew, or should have known, that the ex-Waymo engineer it hired had taken a trove of Waymo's proprietary blueprints potentially including trade secrets, and that had "seeped into" Uber's self-driving development.

The ruling, delivered Monday, May 15, by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, put Uber on the losing end of the battle, slowing its plight in the race to dominate the burgeoning self-driving industry, which market analysts believe could be worth billions of dollars in the long run.

According to Alsup, Waymo "has shown compelling evidence that its former star engineer" Anthony Levandowski "pilfered" thousands of Waymo documents. Uber must now return those documents either to Waymo or the court by end of May.

Uber was also ordered to distance Levandowski from any form of work that directly involves the self-driving technology called Lidar, the centerpiece of this whole high-stakes legal war between the two companies.

Alsup also ordered Uber to complete an investigation next month regarding the downloaded documents from Waymo and provide the company with a detailed log of written and spoken correspondence between Uber and Levandowski over Lidar.

The case is based on Levandowski allegedly stealing files from Waymo before he left the company to bootstrap a startup called Otto, which Uber later acquired for $680 million in August 2016. Waymo's claim is that those files were somehow integrated into Uber's own self-driving technology, which Alsup has now confirmed.

Levandowski had until last month run Uber's self-driving unit, before halting his involvement and responsibilities amid the legal battle. He had previously asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, choosing to be tight-lipped.

What Happens To Uber's Self-Driving Efforts?

The ruling, however, did not shut down Uber's self-driving operations altogether, which would have likely caused a major setback to Uber's business, seeing as it plans to heavily rely on self-driving cars to service people in the near future.

Despite the blow caused by the ruling, Uber is pleased that it can continue "building and utilizing" its own self-driving technology.

Waymo And Lyft Cozy Up To Each Other

Amid the court case, Waymo has announced a partnership with Lyft on self-driving car pilots on Sunday, May 14. Lyft, for the uninitiated, is Uber's direct competitor. The partnership will boost both companies' efforts to have a leg up in the autonomous driving race.

Expect due coverage as soon as Waymo and Uber's legal battle develops.

Meanwhile, if you have thoughts or opinions about the recent ruling ordering Uber to return stolen documents to Waymo, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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