February 25, 2018

Former Uber CEO Kalanick says relationship with 'big brother' Google soured

08 February 2018, 09:28 | Austin Hogan

Uber co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. Image taken at GES 2016

Uber trailed in self-driving car development admits ex-CEO Travis Kalanick

The lawyers who were lined up against him in a San Francisco courtroom on Wednesday morning are pretty sure that "cheat code" follows a more traditional meaning: that Uber meant to cheat its way to the front of self-driving technology. 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.

"We're bringing this case because Uber is cheating". With ambitions to become a robo-ride giant, Uber obtained stolen blueprints of Waymo's autonomous auto hardware and software, it is alleged. Several months later, Levandowski's company, Ottomotto, was acquired by Uber for $680 million.

The case has been rumbling on for almost a full year, and finally, here we are. Uber contends it did not steal those trade secrets.

That alleged theft, and what Uber may have known about it, is the center of a case that could decide the future of self-driving technology and possibly Uber itself.

Billions of dollars are at stake for Uber if it loses. He also defended his definition of "cheat codes", a term he often used during meetings with Uber's executives, according to Waymo's evidence; when asked to elaborate on the matter, Mr. Kalanick described cheat codes as "elegant solutions" for issues no one thought of before.

Former Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick wrapped up his second and last day on the stand in federal court in San Francisco today by repeating his claim that he didn't hire a top Google engineer for the objective of stealing technology secrets for driverless cars. For example, Kalanick sent a text to Levandowski in March saying, "Burn the village". During the final months of Kalanick's eight-year reign as CEO, Uber acknowledged rampant sexual harassment within its ranks, a yearlong cover-up of a major computer break-in and a $100,000 ransom paid to the hackers, and the use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators. "I did not. Ever". However, later on in those same notes, Levandowski that he was "not relying on Google technology to do the work for Uber".

OK, well that's that sorted then, everyone can go home. That included being shown a text exchange between Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski - whom Kalanick had hired to run Uber's self-driving program - where both agreed that "second place is first loser" in the race to win the autonomous vehicle market.

The outcome of the case will likely determine which company will in the cutthroat and rapidly growing autonomous vehicle sector. Interestingly, Mr. Page was anxious that Uber was developing its own flying vehicle technology.

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Kalanick managed to sum up the technology's importance in his own special way.

Kalanick's emails and texts have also been used to show how LIDAR contributed to a breakdown in communications between Uber and Google.

Kalanick was asked about a series of discussions with Alphabet CEO Larry Page about Uber's desire to build a ride-sharing and self-driving partnership.

Despite those hopes, Kalanick became anxious when rumors swirled that Google was testing its own ride-hailing service in 2015.

Kalanick then stood up and walked through the court's double doors, closely followed by his father.

Before they were enemies, Google and Uber were more than friends.

Instead, Kalanick told a civil jury, he hired engineer Anthony Levandowski because he was "incredibly visionary, a very good technologist".

In earlier testimony on Tuesday, Kalanick acknowledged that he and Lewandowski began discussing the acquisition in December 2015, while the engineer was still at Google and not yet created Otto. There was seemingly no limits on what the company was prepared to do, if Waymo's lawyers are to be believed. And the truth is that there isn't a soul in Silicon Valley that doesn't think Kalanick was capable of it; but that of course is very different to proving that he actually did.

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