Weekly Brief: Waymo and Uber settle cyber-theft lawsuit

Waymo had Uber by the jugular. Now they’re best friends again. Andrew Tolve reports.
Well that was anticlimactic. Uber and Waymo, after dragging each other through the mud for 12 months, agreed to settle their self-driving cyber theft lawsuit right as it reached its most dramatic stages of trial. On Friday Waymo was set to argue its case that Uber not only stole secrets of Waymo’s lidar hardware but put those secrets to use in the design and execution of its own technology. On Monday, Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Waymo’s self-driving car programme, who Waymo accused of swiping 14,000 confidential files, was scheduled to take the stand.

Instead, to audible gasps in the courtroom on Friday, Uber and Waymo lawyers hugged it out after agreeing to a settlement in which Waymo will receive 0.34% of Uber’s equity at present value. That nets Waymo roughly $245M (£177M) based on a $72Bn (£52Bn) valuation for the ride-haling giant. None of that is in cash, however. Waymo will profit as Uber profits moving forward, making two of the most consequential competitors in the race for robo-taxis essentially members of the same team. Uber also agreed that it will not use any Waymo software or hardware intellectual property moving forward.

In other news, the automotive alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi signed a memorandum of understanding with DiDi Chuxing, China’s leading ride-hailing company, to explore future business cooperation on a new electric vehicle car-sharing programme in the People's Republic of China. The companies were tight-lipped about target dates and when trials would start. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance has stated that it plans to have robo-taxi services in play by 2022.

Ford launched its Chariot shuttle service in London, its first market outside of the US. A total of 14 minibuses will operate four routes in London, helping to connect hard-to-serve areas with transportation hubs. Chariot is accessed via a smartphone app that enables users to search for a nearby route and the closest available transport hub address. Single journeys cost from £1.60, with single pay-as-you-go rides £2.40.

SEAT and mobile network operator Orange España partnered up to promote new advances in the development and use of the connected car. The two plan to build digital applications that help transform the vehicle “into the user’s second digital home”. To encourage adoption, they will launch a cross-company loyalty and frequent use programme of all the connectivity and mobility solutions they put on the market.

Want to know what traffic looks like ahead on your route and only your route? Introducing TomTom Audio Traffic, personalised and relevant traffic reports delivered over voice to drivers. TomTom is targeting developers with the product, hoping to see it integrated as an API (application programming interface) in everything from music streaming services to internet radio and voice assistants.

Finally, the Chicago Auto Show got underway without so much as a peep about autonomous vehicles, ride-hailing or connected cars. The show brands itself as a pragmatic look at the cars that everyday consumers are likely to buy next, so in place of cutting-edge tech you get staples like gas-powered pickup trucks, SUVs and sedans. The only two items of interest: Hyundai showed off an updated Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in with an eight-inch colour touchscreen navigation system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and the Amazon Alexa voice assistant; and Ford rolled out a redesigned Transit Connect Wagon with advanced driver assistance features like Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control and Automatic Emergency Braking.
The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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