Waymo, the self-driving vehicle arm of Alphabet, renewed its legal attack on Uber on Friday as it claimed the car-hailing company had failed to disclose a key component it had built using Waymo’s intellectual property.
The claim came as the Silicon Valley rivals head for a May 3 showdown, when a judge in San Francisco will decide whether to back Waymo’s demand for an injunction that could severely hamper its rival’s autonomous car project. The case, which pits two technology giants that were once allies, has blown up this year into one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent legal showdowns.
Waymo’s initial action, launched in February, included a claim that Uber had taken a design for Lidar, a key sensor technology for its driverless car. Uber later retored that the Lidar used in its self-driving vehicles was based on a different design and did not owe anything to Waymo’s trade secrets and patents.
In the latest salvo, Waymo accused Uber of hiding a different Lidar device it had built, and which did owe more to the Waymo design. The existence of the sensor had only come to light in a court deposition by an Uber employee made after earlier proceedings failed to reveal it, Waymo said.
Uber denied the component had been hidden from Waymo. The development of the alternative Lidar had been abandoned at a very early stage, before a prototype had been built, it said.
If Waymo persuades the court to issue an injunction, much will depend on how broadly judge William Alsup draws the order. A narrow injunction might not hit Uber hard if it succeeds in arguing that none of Waymo’s intellectual property has found its way into its own vehicles. But the judge could issue a more sweeping order that forces it to go back to the drawing board on some of its technology.