Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car is displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center.Angelo Merendino/AFP/Getty Images`
Google’s lawsuit alleging that Uber straight-up stole its autonomous vehicle technology won’t go before a jury until October, but Uber already finds itself on dangerous ground.
This week, the judge presiding over the civil case said he might just grant Google’s request for a preliminary injunction, which could force Uber to rein in or even stop testing its robocar technology testing until the case is resolved. Eager to avoid the worst, Uber issued a response designed to limit the damage.
All of this started in February when Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle division, filed a lawsuit claiming former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 technical files from a company server and used the info to launch his autonomous truck startup Otto. Uber acquired Otto a few months later and put Levandowski in charge of its autonomous vehicle program. Uber calls the suit “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”
The driver who crashed says Tesla’s sales staff promoted the system as “self-driving.”
Tesla TSLA 1.29% said on Wednesday that one of its cars had crashed in Beijing while in “autopilot” mode, with the driver contending sales staff sold the function as “self-driving,” overplaying its actual capabilities.
Tesla said it had reviewed data to confirm the car was in autopilot mode, a system that takes control of steering and braking in certain conditions.
The company, which is investigating the crash in China’s capital last week, also said it was the driver’s responsibility to maintain control of the vehicle. In this case, it said, the driver’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel.
The crash, Tesla’s first known such incident in China, comes months after a fatal accident in Florida, which turned up pressure on auto industry executives and regulators to tighten rules on automated driving technology.
A 33-year-old programmer at a tech firm, Luo Zhen was driving to work and engaged the autopilot function as he often does on Beijing’s highways, he told Reuters in his first interview with international media.