Progress Pauses As Tech Billionaires Bicker in Court

Big tech has taken up so much of the news in the last several years and it’s nowhere near letting up. The big five in tech–Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon–are currently worth over $3.3 trillion and hold so many parts in your everyday life that they’re nearly impossible to ignore. With numbers that high, there are naturally going to be squabbles between companies, and these squabbles are anything but minor.

Uber and Google have had an interesting legal battle over the past year that’s fraught with drama and money, that only big tech can contrive. In the days of old, 50% of limo services during a given week were taken up purely by business and corporate types. In the days of now, tech companies are racing to see who can get the first driverless cars on the road in force. When it’s a race to be the future of transportation and automation, the competition gets fierce. Now, these two technology giants are finding themselves being transported, limo or not, to court together.

Google’s driverless car division Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber about a year ago, for allegedly stealing their technology and applying it to their own driverless car division. After a lengthy spitting match in courts, they’ve reached an agreement: Uber will pay $314 million to Waymo in a settlement regarding Waymo’s accusation of Uber’s alleged tech thievery. But, the rabbit hole goes deeper.

Why all this nonsense? Because the tech world is a little more incestuous than you think. A former Google engineer, named Anthony Levandowski, left Waymo to found his own self-driving car startup, Otto. Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, saw this move and went on to purchase Levandowski’s company for $680 million and, voila, now Uber has a self-driving car division. Uber utterly denies all allegations of technological theft and the settlement, though expensive sounding, is probably going to help Uber more than harm them. Uber has had a rocky couple of years with scandals encompassing them amid an expensive trial.

One thing is certain, Anthony Levandowski has cost them (including the acquisition of Otto) around $1 billion. Uber’s lawyer, William Carmody told the jury during the trial, “Knowing everything we know, Uber regrets ever bringing Anthony Levandowski on board. And the reason they do so is because for all his time at Uber, all Uber has to show for Anthony Levandowski is this lawsuit.” He’s certainly not wrong. Now that the dust is beginning to settle, perhaps all these engineers can stop getting into fights with each other and get back to developing the technology that’ll do the world some good.

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