Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Uber Bombshell About to Drop

A compelling read by Daniel Compton:

In the last few weeks Alphabet filed a lawsuit against Uber. Alphabet and Waymo (Alphabet’s self-driving car company) allege that Anthony Levandowski, an ex-Waymo manager, stole confidential and proprietary information from Waymo, then used it in his own self-driving truck startup, Otto. Uber acquired Otto in August 2016, so the suit was filed against Uber, not Otto.

This alone is a fairly explosive claim, but the subtext of Alphabet’s filing is an even bigger bombshell. Reading between the lines, (in my opinion) Alphabet is implying that Mr Levandowski arranged with Uber to:

  1. Steal LiDAR and other self-driving component designs from Waymo

  2. Start Otto as a plausible corporate vehicle for developing the self-driving technology

  3. Acquire Otto for $680 million

Below, I’ll present the timeline of events, my interpretation, and some speculation on a possible (bad) outcome for Uber.

Even with the head start created by a staff entirely familiar with autonomous vehicles, it is truly unbelievable that Otto could go from being founded in January to running a fully-functional prototype on public roads in May, and then acquired by Uber in August, all in the same year. If the endless stories about Uber’s dreadful internal culture aren’t crippling enough, this might well be.