Waymo Trial Delayed Again With Sharp Words for Uber From Judge

Travis Kalanick

Chris Ratcliffe Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. District Judge William Alsup agreed to Waymo's request to delay the trial scheduled for next week, saying in San Francisco federal court that "if even half of what this letter is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial" as planned. Waymo said it learned of the new evidence last week after the U.S. Department of Justice shared it with Alsup.

The letter was penned by an attorney for former Uber security team member Ric Jacobs, who left the company in April, as the Journal notes.

Uber instructed certain employees how to "impede, obstruct or influence any lawsuit" against the company, and used strategies "to ensure we didn't create a paper trail that came back to haunt the company in any potential civil or criminal litigation". He described an "invisible system, not part of the regular server system" that deletes messages nearly instantaneously, after a small delay.

The judge and Waymo's lawyer quizzed Jacobs at the hearings, asking about specific allegations including that Uber had acquired the code base of rival operators as well as details of their drivers and business metrics. Legal trainings within the company also allegedly served to help employees evade investigators. In October, he chided Uber layers for disclosing thousands of emails to Waymo just before the trial had been set to begin.

In response, Jacobs was notably anxious and evasive. "I suppose because of my personal ethics it felt overly aggressive and invasive". "(Uber law firm) Morrison & Foerster and rest of the Uber lawyers withheld evidence, (despite) a direct order to produce stuff like that".

After a very long pause, Jacobs denied he had. Uber bought that startup several months later for $680 million and tapped Levandowski to head of its autonomous vehicle program. At issue, again, is information that Uber withheld. At the time he noted that "the court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted", but the order was unusual and nearly certainly led to the letter from the US Attorney warning about the secret unit. That letter was later obtained by US law enforcement as part of an investigation into Uber's business.

For example, lawyer Arturo González told Alsup that "nobody on this defense team knew about" Uber using "shadow servers" to hide potentially incriminating information.

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