The full history of the Uber-Waymo legal fight - Axios

The full history of the Uber-Waymo legal fight

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

In late February, Alphabet's self-driving car unit Waymo filed a stunning lawsuit against Uber, alleging the company had been using stolen proprietary technology. At the center of the dispute is Otto, a self-driving car startup founded by former Waymo employees that Uber acquired last year, and its leader, Anthony Levandowski, who allegedly downloaded 14,000 Waymo files before quitting and convincing several colleagues to join him at the new company.

Why it matters: The lawsuit could jeopardize Uber's self-driving efforts, which the company has said are crucial to its long-term success. It also raises questions around intellectual property and the ability of employees to work for competitors as a growing number of companies — both established Silicon Valley names as well as new startups — rush to develop self-driving car technology.

It's a complicated case with a dizzying amount of back-and-forth arguments between Uber and Waymo. The timeline below, which we'll continue updating, will help you keep up.

Methodology: This timeline was created using court documents and news articles (linked to the sources).


April 2007: Anthony Levandowski and Lior Ron join Google.

2009: Google begins to work on a self-driving car project.

April 2012: Ron leaves Google for Motorola.

Aug. 2012: Odin Wave, a startup developing self-driving car tech, is incorporated and registered to a Berkeley address owned by Levandowski.

July 2013: Google learns of Odin Wave after a vendor alerts it that the startup ordered a custom part very similar that designed by Google, and looks into the company. It subsequently questions Levandowski, who denies having any ties to Odin Wave.

Feb. 2014: Google learns that Odin Wave has merged with another startup, Tyto Lidar, whose manager is friends with Levandowski.

Oct. 2014: Ron returns to Google.

February 2015: Uber announces plans to develop self-driving cars, and a a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.

Spring 2015: Google investigates possibly acquiring Tyto Lidar or using its products because of the overlap with its own technology. Levandowski participated in the evaluation process without disclosing his ties to the company.

Late summer 2015: Levandowski begin to solicit other Google employees to leave and join him at a new company. Soon after, a manager of Google's self-driving car project heard of this and tried to get Levandowski fired. Google wasn't able to confirm the rumors.

Fall 2015: Levandowski begin working with Ron on a plan to establish a competing company. At the time, they picked the name "280 Systems."

October 2015: Uber considers purchasing LiDAR technology from Levandowski's upcoming company, according to a document.

Dec. 2015: Levandowski resumes attempts to convince Google colleagues to leave. He also looks for special instructions and software to download 14,000 proprietary files onto his work laptop, and attempts to wipe any traces that he did so. He also downloads some files onto a personal device.


January: Levandowski and Ron hold two gatherings at the former's Palo Alto, Calif., home to try to persuade Google employees to join them. The meetings happened before both had resigned. The pair also attempt to get entire teams to leave Google on specific dates.

Jan. 12-13: Levandowski and Brian McClendon, former Google Maps exec and then-Uber employee, trade emails discussing Levandowski's yet-to-be-formed startup.

Jan. 13: Ron resigns from Google.

Jan. 14: Levandowski meets with senior Uber executives at the Uber headquarters.

Jan. 15: Levandowski and Ron form 280 Systems.

Jan. 27: Levandowski resigns from Google. During his exit interview, Levandowski describes projects he's considering, none of them seeming to compete with Google's self-driving car project. He also denies attempting to convince other employees to leave in a subsequent conversation with the Google HR employee.

Jan. 28: Date on which Levandowski's 5.3 million Uber shares begin vesting. Uber issued the shares following the acquisition, but backdated the shares.

Feb. 1: The pair forms Otto Trucking. Otto and Uber sign an NDA, according to court documents.

Feb. 22: Uber prepares a term sheet in anticipation of an acquisition of Otto Trucking/Ottomoto.

Feb. 24: Uber and Otto's founders orally agree to enter into a Joint Defense Agreement, and confirm via email the following day.

March: Reports surface that Uber's partnership with CMU has cooled. Google discusses possible litigation against Levandowski.

March 4: Uber and Otto's law firms retain forensics company Stroz Friedberg to compile a due diligence report.

April 11: Uber and Otto sign a Joint Defense Agreement, which means that in the event of a lawsuit, attorneys for both companies could collaborate and maintain confidential communication.

May 18: By this date, Tyto Lidar has merged with Otto.

May: Otto unveils what it's been working on.

June: Google begins investigating the departures of Levandowski, Ron, and other employees and discovers thousands of files had been downloaded.

July: Multiple Google employees leave to join Otto.

Aug. 5: Stroz Friedburg issues its due diligence report.

Aug. 11: The report's appendix is provided to attorneys of the joint defense group and marked "for attorney's eyes only."

Aug. 18: Uber announces its acquisition of Otto for $680 million.

Aug. 23: Google discusses possible litigation against Uber.

Sept. 13: Uber begins testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

Oct. 24: Otto publicizes a delivery of Budweiser beer via its self-driving trucks.

Oct. 28: Google files an arbitration demand claiming Levandowski and Ron breached their employment contracts when they started a competing company and poached Google employees for their new company.

December: Led by Levandowski, Uber begins testing self-driving cars in San Francisco, but quickly suspends its trials after the DMV revokes the car's registration because of a refusal to apply for a permit.

Dec. 13: Google's self-driving car subsidiary, now called Waymo, is copied on an email chain that shows one of its vendors is working on a part for Uber that looks very similar to Waymo's own design, raising further suspicions.


Feb. 3 and 9: Waymo receives confirmation from Nevada regulators that Otto was using Waymo's LiDAR designs. Waymo also receives documents dated shortly after Uber acquired Otto, in which the ride-hailing company said it was using an in-house LiDAR design.

Feb. 23: Waymo files a lawsuit against Uber and Otto, alleging that founder Levandowski and other employees stole trade secrets from Google before leaving to found Otto. Uber denies the allegations.

March 2: Uber says it will apply for a self-driving car testing permit in California. The DMV had already reinstated the cars' registrations, though they were being driven manually only.

March 10: Waymo aska the judge for a preliminary injunction to block Uber's self-driving car project.

March 16: Uber tells the judge that it will seek to move the lawsuit to private arbitration, citing an arbitration clause in the employment contract of the former Alphabet employee at the center of it.

March 25: An Uber self-driving car is involved in a car crash in Tempe, Ariz. The company put its cars back on the road the following Monday after determining it wasn't at fault.

March 29: Attorneys for Levandowski inform a judge during a private hearing that he's exercising his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

April 3: Documents from an attempt at arbitration in October are made public, revealing that Levandowski was secretly linked to multiple self-driving car startups while working for Google.

April 5: Uber admits it's found one of the 14,000 stolen files, but it's on the personal computer of a former Waymo employee who now works for Uber.

April 7: Uber responds to Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction on its self-driving cars by admitting that vehicles currently on the road are using sensors from vendors, not those it built in-house. It also submits to the court a detailed description of how the sensors it built are designed differently than Waymo's.

April 10: Waymo pushes back on Uber's request to move the case to arbitration, arguing that neither side was party to Levandowski's employment contract with Alphabet. The judge also rules that Levandowski can't use the Fifth Amendment to conceal a third-party report that presumably references the 14,000 files.

April 12: During a hearing the presiding judge suggests Uber may be hiding what Levandowski has been working on while at Uber.

Mid-April: During a deposition, Waymo's attorneys quiz Levandowski on both companies's LiDAR technology, though he declines to answer most questions.

April 22: Waymo tells the court in new documents that Uber has been hiding a device designed by Levandowski using its trade secrets.

April 25: A court of appeals rejects Levandowski's attempt to assert his Fifth Amendment so broadly that Uber can redact documents on his behalf, opening the door for Waymo to request the confidential due diligence report. During a hearing, Uber tells a magistrate judge that Alphabet CEO Larry Page could have important information about what the company knew prior to Levandowski's departure.

April 27: Waymo and Uber debate in front of the presiding judge the latter's request to move the lawsuit to private arbitration. The same day, Levandowski announces he's stepping away from working on Uber's LiDAR technology for the duration of the lawsuit in an attempt to avoid a preliminary injunction.

May 3: The companies presented their arguments in court in regards to Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction on Uber's self-driving cars.

What's next: Judge Alsup is expected to soon rule on Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction.


China bought a third of the world's robots last year

Eugene Hoshiko / AP

China bought 90,000 robots and took a third of the market share in 2016, according to an International Federation of Robotics estimate. By 2019, they'll buy nearly 40% of new robots, the organization projects.

  • Why it matters: China could become an even larger force in the export economy, per Bloomberg's analysts.
  • Robots haven't lowered wages in China yet. Manufacturing workers saw raises of more than 50% between 2010 and 2014. But "the rising use of robots ... threatens to exacerbate domestic income inequality" by shifting gains to the owners of capital, Bloomberg reports.
  • Due to its massive population, China still has a relatively low number of robots per humans. There are about 50 robots for every 10,000 workers, compared to the global average of about 75. Beijing wants 150 robots for every 10,000 workers by 2020, the Federation reports.

There are 3,500 troops in Afghanistan the Pentagon didn't tell you about

U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, left, talks with Col. Khanullah Shuja, commander of the national mission brigade of the Afghan special operations force, and U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, at Camp Morehead in Afghanistan. Lolita Baldor / AP

There are currently more than 12,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan — 3,500 of them the Pentagon failed to publicly disclose, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Pentagon has disclosed the 8,400 military members stationed in Afghanistan long-term, but kept hidden the number of troops that are sent to the area on a temporary status. The number of troops from other groups such as special forces are almost always kept secret.

Why it matters: The real total number of troops is important in deciding how many more troops will be sent to the country after President Trump's announcement on Monday night. The new strategy is expected to include sending about 3,900 troops to Afghanistan within the next few weeks, military officials told WSJ.

Go deeper with an Axios graphic showing the number of U.S. troops and private contractors in Afghanistan since 2007, here.

Google and Walmart in a joint offensive against Amazon

Google's Home device. (Walmart)

Walmart and Google are escalating a fierce battle to own virtual assistant shopping, jointly challenging Amazon's towering dominance over the already-lucrative new space in retail, per the WSJ's Jack Nicas and Laura Stevens.

Google is offering up its Home virtual assistant (photo above) and Walmart its vast inventory. As of next month, they will team up on Google Express, the internet giant's e-commerce marketplace. In doing so, they are going against Amazon's Echo.

  • The mountain is steep: As of July, Amazon raked up 45 cents of every dollar spent on-line, up from 43 at the start of the year. Walmart earns just 2 cents. Google's House personal assistant is 26% of the market; Echo is the rest.
  • But the prize is too large to ignore: Amazon has already decimated whole swaths of brick-and-mortar retail, and now has an early grip on the new voice-activated virtual assistant market. Walmart does not want to end up like Macy's and Barnes & Noble, and Google is not satisfied to be an also-ran in e-commerce.
  • So big players are aligning: Walmart is also doing test runs using Uber and Lyft in an attempt to speed the delivery of fresh produce bought through Google Home.

How it works: Pioneered in China, sophisticated voice-activated devices are one of the next waves of technology. Before you know it, you will use virtual assistants for much of your shopping, household chores and office work.

  • It's easier after you get started: Once you've bought a certain brand of toothpaste or toilet paper, you can simply tell your assistant, "toothpaste," and it will have the same brand shipped to you.
  • Free shipping: Amazon has chalked up much of its gains through its $99-a-year Prime program, which offers free shipping. Against that, Google and Walmart are dropping their annual fee entirely if your order hits a minimum, like $25 or $35. The jury is out whether that will prove more effective than Amazon Prime.

How Netflix knows what you want

Matt Rourke / AP

Four out of five shows watched on Netflix were found by subscribers thanks to recommendations offered them, AP's Frazier Moore reports:

  • "Most every row of program suggestions (even generic-seeming categories like "Comedies" and "Dramas") is tailored for each subscriber."
  • "[A] legion of Netflix 'taggers' screens every program, tagging different elements that compose it."
  • "Viewer habits gathered by Netflix from its 100 million accounts worldwide add more grist to the mill."
  • An example of the secret sauce: "[F]ans of the 2015 film 'The Big Short,' which deals with Wall Street dirty tricks, have been found to respond to the money monkeyshines that animate 'Ozark.'"

An onstage version of Trump 'screaming at the television'

Rick Scuteri / AP

Instant media reactions to Trump's Phoenix rally, which was followed by protests that police dispersed with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray.

  • CNN's Don Lemon: "He is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country. ... He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. ... A man backed into a corner, it seems, by circumstances beyond his control — and beyond his understanding."
  • NBC's Kristen Welker: "[T]his whole Charlottesville criticism ... has really been getting under his skin. This was his attempt to sort of revive the argument, to re-litigate it."
  • Fox News' John Roberts: "The president had ... a clear win last night with his speech about the new policy on Afghanistan ... But now he's completely changed the subject again."
  • Jon Favreau of Pod Save America, and co-founder of Crooked Media: "Trump's angry that the media reported exactly what he said so he held a speech to deliver a sanitized, redacted version on live television ... I believe Trump just called out the @crookedmedia! ... Trump's going to shut down a government that's controlled entirely by his own party. Very cool."
  • MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, on the omission of "many sides": "The president has lied to his audience tonight."
  • CNN's Brian Stelter began his late-night Reliable Sources newsletter with the single word: "Poison."
  • CNN's Brian Lowry: "[M]uch of this felt like an aging rock band playing the hits ... But he seemed to ratchet up the rhetoric on his enemies list, which has grown lengthier."
  • N.Y. Times Jeremy Peters, to Brian Williams on MSNBC: "In a lot of ways, what we heard from President Trump tonight was just an extended version of the shouting matches that he's been having behind closed doors at the White House, whether it's screaming at his aides, or screaming at the television. ... I see someone who just doesn't want to lose an argument."
  • WashPost's Bob Costa, to Brian Williams: "Steve Bannon, gone from the White House, but he might as well have been a ghost at this Phoenix event. He hovered over everything."

Read the original Uber pitch deck

To mark the ninth anniversary of the original Uber idea (then called "UberCabs"), co-founder Garrett Camp posted online the company's first pitch deck. Back then, Uber's business was all about providing private car rides to its members in a more efficient (thanks to smartphones and tech) and affordable way.

  • The deck claimed customers shouldn't have to wait for more than five minutes to get picked up, and predicted early on that passengers would want to share rides.
  • The original service was focused on premium rides, but the original deck mentioned eventually turning to less expensive cars like the Toyota Prius. Uber's first UberX cars, in 2012, were in fact Priuses.
  • Today, countless companies describe themselves as "the Uber of X." Back in 2008, Uber compared its concept to another existing company: NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that sells part ownership or shares of private business jets.

Phoenix police use tear gas at Trump rally protests

Matt York / AP

Police deployed tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and rubber bullets on Tuesday night to break up protest crowds after President Trump's rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • "Officers responded with pepper spray to break up the crowd after people tossed rocks and bottles and dispersed gas, Phoenix police spokesman Jonathan Howard said," the AP's Jacques Billeaud and Clarice Silber reported from Phoenix.
  • "But some witnesses said that events unfolded differently," per NYT's Simon Romero, "with protesters throwing a water bottle or two in the direction of the police, before the police fired tear gas into the crowd."
  • "The handling by the police of this peaceful protest was reprehensible," Jordan Lauterbach, a 31-year-old bartender, told the NYT. "I was gassed tonight for exercising my right to express my views. I was disgusted by that."

Videos and tweets below:


The shift in Medicare spending

Medicare is the largest purchaser of health care services in the country, and over the past decade, there's been a gradual change in how those taxpayer dollars are spent, according to data from the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Since 2006, Medicare is shifting money from physician practices and inpatient hospitals (where a person needs an overnight stay), and toward private health insurers and other companies that run the Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs. Spending also has increased in outpatient settings.

Data: Medicare Payment Advisory Commission; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act contributed to some of this shift by cutting Medicare payments to hospitals. But what's happening in Medicare is representative of the health care system at large: the shift to defined benefits and narrow networks of hospitals and doctors, and avoiding hospitalizations whenever possible.

Where more Medicare funds are flowing:

  • Medicare Advantage: Roughly 20 million seniors and disabled people are now enrolled in the politically popular program, which represents 27% of all Medicare dollars. Seniors give those plans high marks, and it's a profitable business for insurers. But there are concerns that Medicare Advantage isn't saving money and that insurers are gaming the program.
  • Part D: The growth of drug prices has blown away the growth of pretty much every other economic good, and Medicare is barred from negotiating discounts with manufacturers. That inevitably has resulted in more money going into the Part D program (14% of all Medicare spending), and the benefits managers that run it.
  • Outpatient hospital departments and clinics: Technology has made it possible for Medicare enrollees to get some procedures and go home the same day, and it's cheaper than treating someone in the hospital. But hospitals also have been buying physician offices and controversially converting them into hospital outpatient departments, resulting in higher fees for the same services.

Trump details his agenda during Phoenix rally

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump opened his Phoenix rally tonight with a nod to the upcoming GOP agenda: "We are fully and totally committed to fighting for our agenda and we will not stop until the job is done." He spent the majority of his speech blaming the media for race relations in the U.S., particularly after Charlottesville, but here are some agenda items Trump talked about:

Border wall: "If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said in a message to "obstructionist Democrats."

Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio: "Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe? So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? You know what, I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine. OK? But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good."

NAFTA: "And you know that one of the worst deals that anybody in history has ever entered into. We have begun formal renegotiation with Mexico and Canada on NAFTA. And I must be honest, and I've been talking about NAFTA for a long time and I'm sorry it's taken six months, but we have to give notice, and after the notice is given then you have to wait a long time, anyway. Personally, I don't think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such bad deals, both of the countries, but in particular Mexico, that I don't think we can make a deal. So I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point. Probably. But I told you from the first day that we'll either renegotiate NAFTA or we will terminate NAFTA. I personally don't think we can make a deal without termination, but we'll see. You're in good hands."

Tax reform: Trump promised to pass the "first major tax reform in over 30 years." And he said if Congressional Democrats don't support him in this legislation, they'll be "stopping you from getting a massive tax cut."

Filibuster: "So I have a message for Congress tonight. Your job is to represent American families, American people, American workers. You need to represent them on the border, on taxes, on health care — one vote. And on every other issue that affects their lives. And for our friends in the Senate, oh boy."

  • To McConnell: "The Senate, remember this, look, the Senate, we have to get rid of what's called the filibuster rule. We have to. And if we don't the Republicans will never get anything passed; you're wasting your time. We have to get rid of the filibuster rule right now. We need 60 votes and we have 52 Republicans, that means that 8 Democrats are controlling all of this legislation. We have over 200 bills. And we have to speak to Mitch and we have to speak to everybody."

Brazil antitrust agency challenges AT&T-Time Warner deal


Brazil's antitrust authority said the merger of AT&T and Time Warner should not be allowed to go through unless the companies agree to changes, such divesting certain assets, to prevent the combined company from hurting competition.

Why it matters: Brazil is one of the remaining countries (along with the U.S.) that needs to sign off on the $85 billion deal, which has gotten regulatory authority from 16 countries. While it's hard to know how the recommendation will impact the U.S. review, it will likely be noticed by the Department of Justice since critics of the deal have drawn parallels in the U.S. market.

"I think this will harden any existing concerns DOJ has about the deal," said Gene Kimmelman, former DOJ official who is now CEO of Public Knowledge, an opponent of the merger.

Specifics: "The new company would also have the capacity and incentives to take various forms of discrimination against its competitors in both markets, which could weaken the competitive environment." the Brazilian antitrust authority, known as CADE, said in a statement Tuesday, according to a translation by the FT.

  • CADE also said the proposed deal would allow Time Warner to gain access to sensitive information from all its competitors through Sky (one of Brazil's biggest operators, of which AT&T owns a 93% stake, according to Bloomberg).
  • And AT&T would have access to conditions negotiated by its rivals through Time Warner (one of Brazil's largest pay-TV programmers), "significantly harming businesses and consumers in the pay-TV segment."

In the U.S. A coalition of public interest and consumer groups made a similar argument in a letter to the DOJ last month:

"As both a major programmer and a major distributor, it would be able to use information from both sides of the negotiating table to give itself better deals than its rivals can obtain—it would necessarily know, for instance, what its programming rivals are charging for their content, and what its distribution rivals are paying."

AT&T disagrees: AT&T says the deal benefits consumers and will help provide competition to the likes of Google and Amazon. "AT&T and Time Warner will work with Cade to clarify any issues they may have to promptly reach a final resolution on the matter," the company said in a statement to Bloomberg.

What's next: In Brazil, a decision is expected in November, although that deadline could slip up to 90 days. In the U.S., authorities are reportedly pretty far along in the review and are discussing conditions with the companies, according to WSJ, indicating that the deal is on the path to approval. AT&T still expects the deal to close by the end of the year.