Uber boss takes stand at driverless trial

Uber chief Travis Kalanick Image copyright ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty

Ex-Uber boss Travis Kalanick has taken the stand at a trial accusing his former firm of stealing driverless car technology from Google's Waymo.

The San Francisco trial pits two of the biggest players in self-drive technology against each other.

Lawyers for Waymo pressed Mr Kalanick on allegations he orchestrated a theft of trade secrets from Waymo, via former Google employee Anthony Levandowksi.

They said Mr Levandowski visited Mr Kalanick while still working at Google.

Lawyers showed the jury an Uber visitor pass and notes, supposedly from the meeting, that contained the phrase "laser is the sauce" - a reference to the technology that was allegedly stolen - and meaning that Uber considered this critical to self-driving technology.

Mr Kalanick said he did not remember the meeting.

Mr Kalanick resigned as chief executive of Uber in June, following pressure from shareholders, but he remains on Uber's board.

The trial has provided another look at his win-at-all-costs attitude, which has been part-blamed for the troubles Uber experienced in recent years - from sexual harassment claims to court cases about the rights of its workers, regular clashes with city regulators and issues about how the firm looked after users' data.

In his opening argument, Alphabet lawyer Charles Veerhoven said: "Mr Kalanick, the chief executive officer at the time at Uber, made a decision that winning was more important than obeying the law."

Alphabet's case hinges on the fact that Uber hired Mr Levandowski, who had worked in the firm's self-driving car division.

It alleges that he had downloaded 14,000 files of data, including blueprints and other technical information about Lidar - which enables cars to understand their environment.

Mr Levandowski went on to found autonomous truck firm Otto, which was acquired by Uber less than a year later.

Uber does not dispute that the documents were taken but argues that it didn't gain anything from them.

The engineer at the centre of the row has pleaded the Fifth amendment - meaning he does not have to say anything that may incriminate him.

If found guilty, Uber could have to pay more than $1bn in damages or, in a worst case scenario, be forced to stop its self-driving programme altogether.

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