Uber will 'likely' be forced to license Waymo's self-driving car tech or redesign its own

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In context: Uber’s self-driving car technology has proven to be quite controversial over the past several years. It’s been at least partially responsible for numerous crashes — one of which was notoriously fatal — and the company has faced scrutiny for allegedly using Waymo’s trade secrets (provided by a former employee) to develop its own tech.

That last controversy is escalating now, in the wake of an “expert review” of Uber’s software. According to a recent Reuters report, the ride-hailing service told investors in a securities filing that it may be forced to take a “Detour” in its self-driving software development, which could limit or otherwise “delay” its progress.

Uber reached this decision point after the expert review in question did indeed find similarities between Waymo’s autonomous car software and Uber’s. If this is the case, Uber will “likely” need to redesign some aspects of its technology, which may require a significant amount of effort.

Alternatively, Uber could seek to license Waymo’s tech — whether or not the Google subsidiary will be willing to play ball is another matter entirely. Waymo has made it clear that it’s none too pleased with the situation in the past, and a recent statement offered to Reuters by the autonomous car giant doesn’t imply a change of heart.

In the statement, the company says that the previously-mentioned expert’s findings “further confirm Waymo’s allegations that Uber misappropriated [their] software intellectual property.” The company goes on to say that it will continue to take the “necessary steps” to ensure its “confidential information” is not being used by its competitor.

It’s unclear which route Uber will take, but if it does rework its software, it will be yet another unfortunate setback for a company that is already behind the curve when it comes to the development of self-driving car technologies.

It remains to be seen whether or not Uber will be able to bounce back from this situation. Still, given the significant benefits a driver-free ride-hailing system presents for the company’s bottom line, we would be surprised if it gives up this late in the game.

Image credit: Wired

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