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SAN FRANCISCO: Two tech giants racing for a lead in autonomous driving clashed on Monday in court as former Google car unit Waymo’s lawyer argued that Uber’s boss deliberately chose “to cheat” to get a leg up on competitors.

The accusations flew in the opening day of a blockbuster tech sector trial in which Google parent Alphabet’s Waymo division is seeking at least $1 billion over the theft of secrets from its self-driving car program.

In opening remarks before the jury in San Francisco federal court, Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven maintained that Uber’s founder and former chief executive Travis Kalanick made the decision to use stolen trade secrets to enable the global ridesharing giant to move into autonomous driving.

“He made a decision and the decision was to cheat,” Verhoeven said.

“He made the decision that winning was more important than the law.” Uber has denied the allegations, which stem from a lawsuit claiming that former Google car executive Anthony Levandowski took thousands of files before leaving the unit for a startup called Otto later acquired by Uber.

Verhoeven said Kalanick – who was ousted as CEO last year amid a move to reform Uber’s workplace culture – realised his company was lagging in efforts to develop autonomous technology and decided to take a dishonest route.

Kalanick told his colleagues that “this all about winning,” the lawyer argued, and that Uber knew it could not catch Waymo because the Google car unit was “ahead of the pack.”

‘No conspiracy’

Uber attorney Bill Carmody sought to downplay the accusations and said the evidence would prove “there’s no conspiracy.” Carmody said evidence would show Google and Waymo were failing to invest enough to keep the most talented staff, enabling Uber to hire them.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2018

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