Judge asks federal prosecutors to investigate Uber

Judge asks federal prosecutors to investigate Uber
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A judge has asked federal prosecutors to investigate Uber for “possible theft of trade secrets” on autonomous car technology from its rival, Alphabet-owned Waymo.

The referral to the U.S. attorney escalates a legal battle between Waymo, a self-driving car company, and Uber. Waymo alleges that Uber stole its "lidar" technology, a crucial part of self-driving car navigation.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup also declined Uber’s request to move the case to arbitration, which means that the raging legal battle between Waymo and Uber will continue to unfold publicly.

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“This was a desperate bid by Uber to avoid the court’s jurisdiction,” a Waymo spokesperson said of the decision regarding arbitration. “We welcome the court’s decision today, and we look forward to holding Uber responsible in court for its misconduct.”

Waymo declined to comment on the judge’s investigation request to federal prosecutors. A representative from Uber did not immediately return a request for comment on the investigation or failed arbitration bid.

Waymo's lawsuit alleges that Uber stole the Lidar technology through former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski, who later worked for Uber.

Lidar, a radar-like system of lasers that helps a self-driving car navigate, is valuable and difficult to perfect. Waymo claims that Uber gained an unfair advantage by getting Lidar files that Levandowski allegedly stole before leaving the company.

“This case is referred to the United States Attorney for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets based on the evidentiary record supplied thus far concerning plaintiff Waymo LLC’s claims for trade secret misappropriation," US District Judge William Alsup wrote. "The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney."

The denied bid for arbitration and investigation are the latest setbacks for Uber, whose public image has taken a beating in 2017. The company's reputation suffered after criticism from former employees over its treatment of women, as well as the fallout from video of CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver.