Travelling in self-driving cars will, eventually, be a common occurrence in cities. The question is when. But a recent clash between Uber, the ride-hailing giant, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has cast some doubts on the future of self-driving technology and which company will profit from it. Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous car unit, has sued Uber for appropriation of trade secrets and patent infringement. The result of the lawsuit could have big implications both for companies and consumers. What is behind the dispute, and which firm is likely to win out?
The problem can be summed up in one four-letter word: Otto. Last August Uber announced it had acquired a seven-month-old startup that specialised in autonomous lorries, called Otto, for around $680m. The young startup was co-founded by Anthony Levandowski, a veteran of Alphabet’s self-driving car efforts. According to Waymo’s lawsuit, which was filed in February, before abruptly resigning from Alphabet and founding Otto, Mr Levandowski stole around 14,000 proprietary documents, which has helped Uber replicate Waymo’s lidar technology. Lidar users lasers to scan surrounding objects and is employed in self-driving cars. Uber denies the allegations, says its lidar system is different than Waymo’s and suggests that Waymo is using this […]