The timing of the partnership couldn't be worse for Uber, which finds itself in a heated battle against both companies, while it fends off a seemingly endless string of controversy, including allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. The two companies formed an alliance to fuse Lyft's ride-hailing service and Waymo's technology, a deal that marries technology from Google's holding company Alphabet with the second-biggest ride hailing service in the U.S.
"We are pleased with the court's ruling that Uber can continue building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology, including our innovation around LiDar", Niki Christoff, an Uber spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from the ground up", the statement said. Waymo recently sued Uber alleging that it stole self-driving tech secrets when it hired former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski. Waymo also sought an order prohibiting Uber from using anything that could be a Waymo trade secret - a potentially deadly blow to Uber's autonomous vehicle efforts. LiDAR refers to "light detection and ranging" systems; It uses rapid pulses of laser light to help self-driving cars measure distance and navigate the world around them.
The order filed Monday in a trade secrets theft lawsuit also forces Uber to return all downloaded materials by noon on May 31. Among other things, they could lead to many urban consumers being willing to forego vehicle ownership in favor of relying on ride-sharing fleets, possibly through subscription services providing a certain number of prepaid miles per month.
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Instead, Alsup granted Waymo provisional relief by ordering Uber to return the 14,000 pilfered files to Waymo, and produce a detailed accounting of every person at Uber who saw any part of the files, what they saw, and for what objective.
It's that lidar technology that's at the crux of the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit.
There aren't many other details about the Waymo and Lyft agreement, as both companies declined to comment on what kinds of products they'd be working on or when those things might be revealed to the public. It sued Uber in February alleging stolen Waymo technology was used to build Uber's self-driving fleet, which Uber launched in Pittsburgh a year ago. Then, like other autonomous drive pilot programs, the vehicles will be used in a limited setting, with an engineer onboard to make certain nothing goes wrong if the auto becomes confused during a drive. But in nearly the same breath, Alsup sort of, kind of sided with Waymo by agreeing that something "highly suspicious" happened with Uber's star engineer Anthony Levandowski. As of a few hours ago he took a semi-major hit when a Federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the star engineer he seduced away from Waymo will be legally barred from working on the projects that we can only assume Kalanick lured him away to work on.