Monday, 10 December, 2018

Uber throws former self-driving auto guru Andrew Levandowski to the wolves

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick answered a lot of question during Wednesday's Uber Waymo trial Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick answered a lot of question during Wednesday's Uber Waymo
Theresa Hayes | 08 February, 2018, 04:57

Kalanick testified he did not ask Levandowski to bring Google information to Uber, or that Levandowski ever told him he had Google data. That, in turn, lead the company to pursue autonomous driving much more quickly, which enraged Google co-founder Larry Page. The video clip, which had been sent by that engineer, Anthony Levandowski, to Travis Kalanick was one of various communications and documents - ranging from text messages to emails to employee notes - that attorneys examined as Kalanick took the stand for the second day in a row.

"I have no idea", Kalanick said.

"That's a famous speech isn't it sir?"

"That's something I've said a couple times", Kalanick replied. During the final months of Kalanick's eight-year reign as CEO, Uber acknowledged rampant sexual harassment within its ranks, a yearlong cover-up of a major computer break-in and a $100,000 ransom paid to the hackers, and the use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators.

Another point of question was the fact that Kalanick was in the room during an April 2016 presentation to Uber's board when it approved the acquisition of Levandowski's Ottomotto.

Waymo must prove Uber not only got its hands on the 14,000 files, but also that it used them to develop its own project.

"Is it true sir that you've never heard of an indemnification agreement that uses the 'words pre-signing bad acts?'" Verhoeven said. Karen Dunn, began questioning Kalanick. "Google was a huge partner of ours", he said.

"To no extent at all".

"We hired Anthony because we felt he was incredibly visionary, a very good technologist, and he was also very charming", Kalanick said. And we wanted to not just understand how all the technologies could be put together but having a vision as to what that means for cities.

"Look, this has been a hard process". "Our initial discussion was (that a company Levandowski proposed starting) would make lasers and sell them to us, but I wanted someone who could build a team to make lasers".

"We are recruiting a lot of your people-I think your people can work where they want to work-but your people are not your IP", Kalanick says he responded. "Larry was very upset that we were doing his thing", Kalanick said.

The former CEO explained how Uber was initially funded by Google Ventures, Google's venture capital arm. On Wednesday, Waymo's lead attorney, Charles Verhoeven, began by asking whether Kalanick told other executives at the ride-hailing company to "minimize the risk" that Uber would be sued by Google following the Otto acquisition.

"Did you consider Google to be a competitor?"

Uber and Google had a strong relationship several years ago.

A Google-bred pioneer in self-driving cars and Uber's beleaguered ride-hailing service are colliding in a courtroom showdown revolving around allegations of deceit, betrayal, espionage and a high-tech heist that tore apart one-time allies. Levandowski subsequently launched a robotic-truck startup called Otto that Uber bought a few months later for $680 million. "Generally Google was super not happy, unpumped". Google was a big early investor in Uber.

"We weren't getting any traction so we started out own self-driving effort", Kalanick said. Meetings and emails show Kalanick communicated with Levandowski about working on self-driving vehicle projects before the engineer left Google.

By August 2016, with the Waze carpooling service expanding in the Bay Area and Uber going fully into developing self-driving cars, Drummond left Uber's board, citing increasing conflicts of interest.

The jury will have to decide whether these were indeed trade secrets and not common knowledge, and whether Uber improperly acquired them, used them and benefited from them.

The lawsuit has already produced internal documents and sworn testimony that exposed spying programs and other shady tactics deployed by Uber to expand its business. The case is likely to conclude within two to three weeks.