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Waymo, Uber trade barbs in opening arguments in self-driving case

Waymo, Uber trade barbs in opening arguments in self-driving case

The Uber-Waymo trial started on Monday morning.

In history's eyes, coming in second is the same as losing.

"Mr. Kalanick, the CEO at the time at Uber, made a decision that winning was more important than obeying the law", Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven said Monday in his opening statement in front of a San Francisco courtroom.

In opening statements before a 10-person jury, the two firms traded accusations against each other amid the civil case that could help determine who emerges in the forefront of the autonomous vehicle business, Reuters reports.

The list of witnesses who might be called to testify includes ousted Uber chief Travis Kalanick as well as Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. "The evidence is going to do that he targeted and hired away one of its key engineers that had been with Chauffeur-that's the name of the program-since its inception". "Big at Google", became upset at Levandowski's departure, afraid he would launch a competing company that would edge Google out of the ride-hailing market, valued at trillions of dollars.

The battle comes down to robotics engineer Anthony Levandowski, who was trained by Google but abruptly left the company to start his own self-driving truck manufacturer, Otto. Waymo's allegation is that its former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files in December 2015 containing designs for autonomous vehicles before going to work for Uber and leading its self-driving auto unit in 2016.

Verhoeven likened Uber's behavior to a video game "cheat code". "I hope the jury has patience".

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"I'm gonna tell you right upfront: it didn't happen".

"That was quite a story we just heard - a tale of conspiracy", Carmody said. "But like most conspiracy stories it just doesn't make sense when you get the whole story". "There's no cheating - there's not a single piece of Google proprietary information at Uber", Carmody said. "No matter if it meant breaking some rules or doing the wrong thing, or, in this case, taking trade secrets from a competitor". As the plaintiff, Waymo has the burden of proof as it tries to convince jurors that Uber stole its trade secrets - specifically, the laser technology that allows its self-driving cars to "see" as they autonomously navigate the roads.

"The central issue in this case remains whether or not Uber misappropriated Waymo's trade secrets, not whether or not Uber is an evil corporation", Alsup wrote in one of his final orders leading up to the trial. But Sasha Zbrozek, the Waymo engineer who built the server, told the company's lawyers that the files were low-value enough that Waymo had considered hosting them off its infrastructure.

"As we are here today, and knowing everything we know, Uber regrets ever bringing Anthony Levandowski on board", Carmody said.

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. As Uber makes its case over the next month, it will seek to distance itself from Levandowski - whom it fired this past May for refusing to cooperate with its probe into Waymo's allegations - a strategy Carmody debuted Monday. The engineer invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination nearly a year ago, shortly after the suit was filed, and is likely to do the same when US District Judge William Alsup compels him to take the witness stand. Levandowski may have the right idea: In December, Alsup unsealed a letter from prosecutors confirming that a criminal investigation of the alleged trade-secrets theft is under way. In the other corner is Uber, the ride-hailing giant that is now accused of colluding with a former Waymo engineer, Anthony Levandowski, to steal intellectual property and implement it into their own tech.

As part of his hour-long opening statement and presentation, Verhoeven called Waymo's self-driving work "truly revolutionary technology", noting that once it "becomes normalized" it would "improve safety" and would dramatically reduce the tens of thousands of people that die in the United States every year from vehicle accidents.

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