SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly a year after Waymo filed its lawsuit against Uber, the self-driving competitors are to have their day in court, with the trial scheduled to start this week.
But beyond whether the spinoff of Google’s parent company or the ride-hailing giant prevails, the trial is expected to have a huge impact on the auto industry.
“This trial is a really big deal,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who specializes in self-driving vehicles. “Not as much because of the legal issue or the ultimate impact for the companies, but for showing how much is at stake in development of automated vehicles for companies that are doing it.”
Because of the trial’s high profile, it likely will help define the autonomous vehicle industry, Walker Smith said, comparing it to the impact of Apple vs. Nokia on the smartphone industry and Ford vs. Dodge on the early auto industry.
In Waymo’s suit filed Feb. 23, 2017, the company accused Uber of stealing its designs for laser sensors dedicated to autonomous driving.
Though the suit has narrowed, centering on whether Uber used eight trade secrets outlined by Waymo after claims of patent infringement and damages were dismissed, it has raised questions — and eyebrows — over how technology is developed and who stands to benefit.