A Google-bred pioneer in self-driving cars and Uber’s beleaguered ride-hailing service are colliding in a courtroom showdown revolving around allegations of deceit, betrayal, espionage and a high-tech heist that tore apart one-time allies.
San Francisco – Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is expected to testify at trial for a second day on Wednesday, responding to rival Waymo’s allegations that Uber expressly hired a star Waymo engineer to gain self-driving auto technology trade secrets.
Waymo’s top attorney, Charles Verhoeven, submitted Kalanick to further questioning on Wednesday, at one point invoking a scene from the 1987 movie Wall Street, in which main character Gordon Gekko says, “Greed is right”.
Alphabet’s Waymo division is seeking at least US$1 billion over the theft of secrets from its self-driving vehicle program in the trial before federal judge William Alsup. Uber’s legal team, on the other hand, portrayed the company’s former leader to the jury as Google’s friend-turned-competitor, who was not responsible for Levandowski’s actions after he left his previous job and founded his own self-driving auto startup.
Kalanick took the stand for about an hour Tuesday and for another two hours Wednesday morning. He managed to refrain from saying anything wildly inappropriate.
When Waymo lawyers asked Ron why Levandowski continually asked him to delete their communications, Ron waved these messages away, too. That spawned his discussions with Levandowski, a respected expert in self-driving vehicles who had become disillusioned with the direction of Google’s project.
As part of the Otto deal, Uber agreed to indemnify Levandowski against any legal action, Kalanick said.
“Look, this has been a hard process”. “One of (Waymo’s) theories is that Uber got greedy and wanted to. take a shortcut to the finish line”, Alsup said. Then this lawsuit happened. Kalanick testified that he never read the Uber-commissioned report.
That’s how Kalanick described being CEO of Uber.
“We’re bringing this case because Uber is cheating”. He still sits on the board. Uber founder Travis Kalanick once referred to Levandowski as his “brother from another mother”, but those feelings haven’t translated to Uber’s legal strategy.
Essentially, the arrangement as Kalanick understood it, was that Google was nurturing Uber’s development.
Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was confronted Wednesday in court with old texts that suggested he was willing to go to any length to surpass a Google self-driving auto project.
With a sad smile Kalanick remembered how as the “little bro” Uber looked up to Google.”We were trying to get more of their time than they were trying to give”, he said. The companies even talked about a possible partnership under which, in Kalanick’s words, “we do ride-sharing, you do the autonomy thing”.
As Uber lost confidence in an Google partnership coming to fruition, the company hired a bunch of autonomous vehicle engineers from Carnegie Mellon. “No compromises”, Levandowski wrote in a January 2016 message, before he had officially left Waymo.
“You literally have to invent things that don’t exist yet”, he said. Verhoeven on Tuesday presented emails, interview transcripts and meeting minutes that showed Uber’s efforts to do anything to win. But Kalanick pushed back and stubbornly insisted he only plays games on his smartphone. The Otto acquisition and Uber’s self-driving auto development happened under Kalanick’s direction.
His quiet demeanor seemed created to counteract what Waymo told the jury on February 5: that Kalanick was willing to cheat and break the law to get ahead.
“As we grew to not just a team of six, now 5,500 people in 55 countries in every major city in the world, your job goes to empowering literally thousands of teams of 6 to have that same feeling for their city, for the technology they’re building”, Kalanick said.