Breadcrumbs lead to theory that Waymo will accuse Uber of conspiracy.
Leftlane reported last week that Alphabet, Inc. (the holding company which owns, among other subsidiaries, Google and Waymo) is suing Uber for alleged intellectual property theft of its LiDAR sensor design, but one Valley observer thinks there's something much bigger on the horizon.
Daniel Compton, a self-described "independent software consultant" based in Morrinsville, New Zealand, has followed the trail of breadcrumbs in Waymo's legal filings and suggests that, beneath the superficial accusations, Waymo is alleging something far more sinister--a deliberate conspiracy between a former Waymo employee and an executive at Uber to steal Waymo's I.P. and disguise that theft as the work of a startup that would then be acquired by Uber.
The trail of breadcrumbs is scattered throughout legal filings (among which are depositions describing meetings between former Waymo employees), but Compton believes his interpretation of the narrative is plausible.
- A Waymo employee accessed and saved files regarding the company's LiDAR technology after allegedly having meetings with an Uber executive who indicated interest in acquiring a company that had developed such technology.
- That employee then left Waymo and launched an autonomous vehicle startup (280systems.com--later Otto)--ostensibly with the goal of building self-driving trucks.
- Despite a lack of investment, this company was able to "develop" LiDAR sensor technology very similar to, and allegedly employing design elements otherwise unique to, Waymo's.
- After the employee's final ties to Waymo/Google were severed, Otto was almost immediately acquired by Uber--for $680 million.
Essentially, what Compton is theorizing is that the former Waymo employee essentially colluded with Uber to steal, re-brand and deliver Waymo's LiDAR sensor technology under the cover of a startup for a (possibly) pre-arranged dollar value.
This interpretation of events does not go far beyond the allegations already made in Waymo's court filings. The cornerstone of Waymo's case is the alleged I.P. theft itself. Compton's narrative only speculates that Uber's acquisition of Otto was pre-arranged, rather than a simple case of Uber acting opportunistically to acquire technology it needed to further its goal of developing self-driving vehicles.
Whether Uber executives were complicit in the alleged theft of Waymo's technology has no bearing on Uber's standing as the defendant in the current legal battle. As Uber acquired Otto, Waymo had no choice but to pursue its case against the new parent. If Waymo can demonstrate that Uber knew of or, worse, influenced/participated in, an act of intellectual property theft, it could ultimately influence the judgment against Uber.