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Waymo and Uber have reached a settlement in their trade secrets battle

February 9, 2018

Following a four-day trial, lawyers representing Uber and Waymo say they have suddenly come to a settlement in their suit  over the theft of autonomous-car technology.

What happened: The Verge reports that Waymo attorneys announced the settlement in a San Francisco courtroom this morning to “gasps of shock.” Federal judge William Alsup, who is presiding over a trial that was a year in the making, called the case “ancient history.”

What Waymo says: “We have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software.”

What Waymo gets: 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity. At the firm’s current valuation of $72 billion, that’s about $250 million. But it’s equity, not cash: Waymo now owns a (small) slice of Uber.

Uber denies wrongdoing: In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he doesn’t believe any trade secrets ever made their way from Waymo to Uber, adding, “Nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology.” The settlement isn’t an admission of guilt but a way of avoiding further legal battles.

What it all means: Back to business as usual, in many respects. But it does add another strange twist to the Uber-Waymo relationship. Google Ventures was an early investor in Uber; Google got annoyed when Uber started building driverless cars, then downright mad when it poached staff and, allegedly, secrets—and now it has a small part of the ride-hailer in its back pocket. That could create interesting dynamics that help shape the future of autonomous driving.

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