Uber agrees to $245m payout to settle Waymo dispute

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo's technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement | File

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo's technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement | File

Uber has finally reached a settlement with Google's company Waymo after the latter claimed that Uber stole self-driving technology ideas from it.

Also notable is that Waymo had agreed to a settlement of around $500 million earlier this week, but Uber's board of directors rejected that.

The surprise settlement announced Friday came as lawyers for Uber and Waymo, a company hatched from Google, prepared to wrap up the first week of a trial that had attracted global attention.

Uber has also agreed not to incorporate Waymo's confidential information into its hardware and software, though Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi writes that he doesn't believe his company used any of Waymo's trade secrets in the first place.

Kalanick stepped down as Uber's chief executive in June as the company grappled with the fallout from several scandals.

Waymo had alleged Uber conspired with former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who had been accused of downloading thousands of proprietary documents before leaving the company and ending up at Uber.

Waymo alleges that Levandowski heisted eight trade secrets from Google before he departed from the company in January 2016.

Waymo alleged that Levandowski heisted its technology and took it to Uber via a startup he founded and which Uber purchased a few months later for $680 million. Kalanick has acknowledged discussing plans for Otto with Levandowski before he started it, though both he and Uber deny using any Google technology to build a fleet of self-driving cars.

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Levandowski had begun talking with Travis Kalanick, Uber's former chief executive, about the possibility of working together on autonomous-vehicle technology while he was still employed at Google, according to evidence presented at the trial. "But the prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited other to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect raised some hard questions". SoftBank Group Corp. just completed a $9.3 billion deal with Uber in which it valued Uber's shares at a blended $54 billion valuation. It was an early investor in Uber and, although it sold some of its stock late a year ago, it still holds a significant stake in Uber.

Uber, which is the world's biggest ride-hailing service, is seeking to be a major player in autonomous cars and has ordered an estimated 24,000 cars from Volvo for its project set to launch in the coming years.

In pretrial evidence gathering, a Waymo expert witness valued the alleged theft at almost $2 billion. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup had refused to allow Waymo to use that figure in the trial.

Khosrowshahi said in his statement he regretted the handling of the Levandowski matter, which occurred before he took over as CEO past year.

The case had hinged on whether Uber used the trade secrets to further its autonomous vehicle program. "Our sole objective was to hire the most talented scientists and engineers to help lead the company and our cities to a driverless future".

Waymo said in a statement that the agreement will protect its intellectual property. It is now owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet.

© 2018 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. YouTube video; iStock/Artist's concept.

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