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Business

REUTERS
February 9, 2018

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Before lawsuit, Uber fell out with ‘big brother’ Google, Kalanick testifies

Before lawsuit, Uber fell out with ‘big brother’ Google, Kalanick testifies

SAN FRANCISCO: Just a few years ago, Uber Technologies Inc saw itself as the little brother to Alphabet Inc, but that cozy bond quickly dissolved into a turf war and ultimately a high-stakes legal battle, a jury heard on Wednesday.

Former Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick described how his own relationship with Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page deteriorated as their companies competed in ride-hailing and autonomous car development, producing a tense rivalry that eventually led to a lawsuit and trial in San Francisco federal court.

Alphabet´s self-driving car unit Waymo sued Uber, a year ago saying that former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential documents in 2015 before leaving to found a self-driving startup that Uber snapped up in 2016.Waymo has estimated damages in the case at about $1.9 billion, which Uber rejects.

Levandowski is not a defendant in the case.

Kalanick´s testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday is a crucial part of the trial, which promises to influence one of the most important and potentially lucrative races in Silicon Valley - to create fleets of self-driving cars.

Kalanick´s testimony showed the personal nature of the lawsuit, which is as much about big personalities at wealthy technology companies as it is about the technology itself.

Uber was once a prized investment for Alphabet, whose venture capital arm made a $258 million bet on Uber in 2013.In Uber´s early days, its relationship with Google was "like a little brother to a big brother," Kalanick said under questioning in court, and Page and Alphabet executive David Drummond were like mentors to the less-seasoned Kalanick.

After Uber heard Alphabet was dabbling in ride-hailing services, Uber´s business, Uber moved into self-driving cars, a project Alphabet had been working on since 2009. Uber hired away 40 experts from Carnegie Mellon University to set up a self-driving car lab in Pennsylvania, a move that upset Page.

"He sort of was a little angsty and said ´Why are you doing my thing?´ and was just upset," Kalanick testified.

Uber´s acquisition of Levandowski´s startup, Otto, only added to the animosity, and days after the deal was announced, Drummond resigned his seat on Uber´s board of directors.

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