Feb. 9 (UPI) — Ride-sharing giant Uber reached a surprise settlement Friday with self-driving vehicle developer Waymo, after a weeklong trial over a trade-secret theft.
Uber announced it agreed to pay $245 million in stock to settle the suit, which values to 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity. Waymo originally sought a $1 billion settlement last year before the case went to trial.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed “regret” Friday and apologized to employees for the distraction brought on by the legal proceedings.
“I am inspired by your passion and commitment to bringing self-driving vehicles to life,” Khosrowshahi said. “Over the last year, you’ve been distracted from your mission. For that I am sorry.”
The Uber chief added that he didn’t believe any trade secrets “made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology.”
Khosrowshahi also defended Uber’s acquisition of Otto, the company started by onetime Google employee Anthony Levandowski, two years ago — just before Levandowski left Google-owned Waymo to become head of Uber’s self-driving program.
“There is no question that self-driving technology is crucial to the future of transportation — a future in which Uber intends to play an important role. Through that lens, the acquisition of Otto made good business sense,” the Uber chief said. “But the prospect that a couple of Waymo employees may have inappropriately solicited others to join Otto, and that they may have potentially left with Google files in their possession, in retrospect, raised some hard questions.”
Uber and Waymo are rivals in the automated driving industry, which both companies believe to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year in revenue.
Waymo said it believed the agreement will help ensure their intellectual property is protected in the future.
“We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software,” Waymo said in a statement.
“We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”