Details of the Case

Things took a turn for Uber this week when US district Court, Justice William Alsup, made a reference to the allegations that its self-driving car technology was stolen from Google and was potentially a criminal investigation.

Judge Alsup made the referral in an order that was posted on Thursday night as he gave a ruling on a number of motions in the suit against Uber by Waymo, a subsidiary of Google.

Details of the Case

The case is about Waymo’s accusations that Uber’s self-driving technology had been based on the trade secrets stolen and utilized by former Google engineer, Anthony Lewandoski, who went to work for the accused.


Waymo is claiming that before leaving Google in the early months of 2016, Lewandoski downloaded at least 14,000 documents which had details about a navigation tool, known as Lidar, which is instrumental for self-driving car sonar.

Waymo is claiming in its lawsuit that Uber and Lewandoski collaborated to create a false start-up dubbed, Otto, which was prior to a $680 million deal for Uber to purchase Otto and get the tech they needed for their self-driving department.

After buying Otto, Lewandoski took over supervision of the self-driving division at Uber. Appropriately, though, he opted to resign from the role earlier this month until the suit is resolved.

Uber holds the position that it has not and is not using Waymo’s technology claiming the Lidar system is completely different. At the same time, Lewandoski has objected to turning over his laptop or even answer most other queries posted by the legal team at Waymo while using the 5th amendment as a shield against self-incrimination.

Things don’t look good for Uber

The decision by Judge Alsup is an indication his pending ruling on a preliminary injunction may not be favorable for the ride sharing giant. Waymo had requested the injunction so as to prevent Uber from utilizing technology while the case was going on and Alsup’s comments on the ruling are a suggestion that he is not keen on Uber’s activities thus far.

If Waymo gets a favorable result from the injunction, then it may effectively stop the self-driving project entirely while the trial proceeds.

In an earlier decision, Judge Alsup also stated that he is going to release the ruling on both the motions for compelling arbitration and the starting injunction under seal for lawyers from both firms before making them public.

Entries on the docket for case depicts Waymo’s motion for injunction has been granted but not fully though it is not yet clear yet which of the company’s requests are going to be honored by the judge.

Thus far, Waymo has reacted to Alsup’s denial for Uber’s request of private arbitration with measured glee. They claimed in a statement they welcome the court’s decision and are looking forward to making sure Uber stands responsible for its actions and misconduct.

Nikki Christoff, a spokeswoman for Uber rebutted with this, “We remain confident in our case and welcome the chance to talk about our independently developed technology in any forum.”

[See More: Uber Reveals Plan for Flying Cars in Dallas by 2020]