“Cheat codes. Find them. Use them,” said Travis Kalanick in April 2016, according to meeting notes dredged up during discovery in Waymo v. Uber. It’s just one of countless embarrassing quotes paraded out today during opening statements.
It’s been almost a year since Waymo first filed suit here in San Francisco. The intervening months have been a scorched-earth death match of litigation, with so many lawyers billing countless hours that the courtroom this morning was packed full of them, with hardly any room for the public. Journalists and spectators alike were crowded into an overflow room.
Why so much interest in a tech trial? Waymo v. Uber is putatively about LIDAR — a laser-based technology that can be used by self-driving cars to detect obstacles. But it’s really more of a circus than a lawsuit, and it’s been that way from the start, ever since Waymo — previously a Google project, now an Alphabet subsidiary that develops autonomous vehicles — filed suit almost a year ago.
The process of discovery has been deeply embarrassing for Uber, which, under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, is trying desperately to shed a villainous reputation. Documents like the Stroz Friedberg due diligence report and the Jacobs letter have made for sensational headlines, accompanied by the ever-astounding sideshow of Anthony Levandowski, who attempted to invoke the Fifth Amendment last year, and also is now the leader of a cult for some reason.
Even if the worst of it is excluded from evidence, the jury still got to hear counsel for Waymo read aloud the ridiculous pronouncements of Travis Kalanick — Uber’s former CEO — excerpted from emails and memos. “The golden time is over. It is war time.” “Reality that matters is catching up. This is the only reality that matters.” “This is all about winning. To win we have to cross the finish line first, losing is not an option.”
Kalanick is also recorded in meeting notes as saying that Uber wants “IP.” An email from an Uber executive says that an advantage of acquiring Ottomotto is that the team has “IP in their heads.” Another memo says that, “Laser is the sauce” and that former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, with his expertise in LIDAR, is the key to success.