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AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Waymo, the self-driving car unit recently spun out of Alphabet, has filed a lawsuit against Uber for stealing trade secrets when it acquired a startup founded by former employees, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court on Thursday. Alphabet's investment arm, GV, is a long-time investor in Uber.

The details: According to the complaint, Waymo says that Anthony Levandowski and other employees secretly downloaded and copied confidential information about the company's LiDAR system and other technology before leaving to start their own startup focused on autonomous driving. The new startup, Otto, was subsequently acquired by Uber just a few months later in August for $680 million.

  • Waymo claims that Levandowski secretly downloaded 14,000 proprietary files from Waymo's servers about the company's LiDAR technology. He subsequently attempted to cover up the act.
  • Levandowski allegedly also downloaded presentations containing information about "the manufacture, assembly, calibration, and testing of Waymo's LiDAR sensors," according to the complaint.
  • Waymo also says that other employees, including the company's supply chain manager and a hardware engineer, downloaded proprietary files shortly before resigning and joining Otto.
  • Otto then contacted a high-vetted vendor Waymo had begun working with despite the confidentiality agreements between the two companies.
  • Waymo discovered that Otto was using its technology through an email sent by a vendor, and confirmed that Otto was using replicas of its technology via a public records request it made to the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development and Department of Motor Vehicles.

Important timing: According to Waymo's complaint, Levandowski allegedly met with Uber officials just days before resigning from Waymo in late January, and after he downloaded the proprietary files. Though Uber's role in Levandowski's actions is unclear, the sequence of event is notable

"We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully," an Uber spokesperson told Axios.

Why it matters: Uber and Waymo (and several other companies) are in a race to build and deploy self-driving car technology and their heightened competition even prompted Alphabet's chief legal officer to resign from Uber's board last year. This lawsuit is also the latest controversy to arise around the Uber, which is currently investigating recent allegations of sexual harassment from a former employee.

The story has been updated with additional details.

Go deeper

47 mins ago - Health

Treasury begins dispersing $350 billion in COVID relief funding to states and localities

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Monday began giving state and local governments access to $350 billion in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Though the money is aimed at helping state, local, territorial and tribal governments recover from the pandemic's economic fallout, the administration will generally give them wide latitude on how they can use the funds.

Game developers break silence around salaries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry.

The big picture: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises.

1 hour ago - World

Jerusalem crisis: Hamas fires rockets, Israel begins military campaign

Palestinian protesters and an Israeli police officer near the Damascus Gate. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Days of tension in Jerusalem escalated into an exchange of fire on Monday, as Hamas fired dozens of rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military responded with strikes of its own and said it was preparing for a military operation that could last several days.

Why it matters: This is the first time Hamas has fired rockets at Jerusalem since 2014, and it's the most serious escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians in many months. It comes during the most sensitive days on the calendar — the last days of Ramadan and the Jerusalem Day commemoration on Monday — and as political crises roil both the Israeli and Palestinian governments.