Uber has been accused of “cheating” its way to the development of self-driving car technology by rival Waymo, at the start of a $1.9bn (£1.36bn) damages action in the US.
Waymo – the unit leading Google parent Alphabet’s charge for driver-less vehicles – accused Uber Technologies of using trade secrets from one of its former engineers in 2015 at the start of the civil case.
It claimed Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before going on to lead Uber’s driver-less programme the following year.
Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven told the 10-person jury in San Francisco that the competitive pressures were so great to develop self-driving cars that the ride hailing app’s then-chief executive, Travis Kalanick, decided that “winning was more important than obeying the law.”
“We’re bringing this case because Uber is cheating. They took our technology…to win this race at all costs,” he said.
Bill Carmody, representing Uber, said the “elephant in the courtroom” was that, despite the downloads by Levandowski, no Google information made it into Uber’s self-driving technology.
“There is no connection whatsoever between any files he downloaded…and what’s in here,” Carmody said, pointing to an Uber-designed Lidar light-based sensor that is central to Waymo’s complaint.
Mr Levandowski is on Waymo’s list of witnesses in the case, which is expected to hear evidence for at least two weeks.
Uber said it had fired the engineer last May, claiming he had refused to hand over information requested of him for Uber’s defence.