The big Waymo versus Uber trial isn't scheduled until May, but the heat between Uber and Waymo is rising fast; Waymo wants Uber's driverless trials shut down by a court injunction, unless ex-Google employee Anthony Levandowski testifies in court.
It appears Waymo wants this injunction whether or not Levandowski takes the stand, but it comes down to District Court Judge William Alsup, who threatened Uber's lawyers with the injunction against any part of the program that uses the allegedly stolen documents and technology if Levandoski skips his day in court.
Waymo claims Uber stole the designs for its LiDAR technology, which is what gives an autonomous vehicle the ability to sense its surroundings, and make the appropriate driving decisions. If this injunction passes, it would essentially neuter Uber's driverless programs in Pittsburg, San Francisco, and Tempe, Arizona.
Reuters reporters Alexandria Sage and Dan Levine, who claim to have gained access to the court transcripts, report that Levandoski's lawyer, Miles Elrich, claims Levandowski is asserting his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination by not taking the stand. Uber's attorney, Arturo Gonzalez, said he would like to put Levandowski on the stand, and that Levandowski might agree to testify if the case went to arbitration.
An arbitration case would be out of the public eye, so Levandowski's testimony would be kept private. This is a move Uber has pined for, and the approach that Waymo had pushed before moving ahead with filing a lawsuit against Uber.
Judge Alsup did not seem impressed with Gonzalez's argument for arbitration, according to the court transcript, reported by Reuters:
I'm sorry that Mr. Levandowski has got his—got himself in a fix. That's what happens, I guess, when you download 14,000 documents and take them, if he did. But I don't hear anybody denying that.
Alsup seemed more partial to Gonzalez's assertion that Uber would argue in court they would not use any of the information Waymo claims Levandowski stole. But the judge stayed resolute on his threat to file an injunction against Uber's program if Levandowski chooses to be absent.
It appears the ball is now in Uber's court; either they convince Levandowski to testify, or have another temporary pause to their already problematic driverless program.