All posts by John Skrhak

John Skrhak | Gadgets, Sports and Toys Fanatic | Read about them all here.

Waymo: Uber stole our self-driving car tech

Waymo logo

Waymo was launched by Google last year.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Google parent Alphabet, dropped a lawsuit on Uber on Thursday, alleging the ride-hailing company stole trade secrets to bolster its own autonomous car efforts.

The 28-page lawsuit focuses on Otto, a self-driving trucking company that Uber acquired last year. The suit charges that Anthony Levandowski, a former Google employee, downloaded 14,000 “highly confidential” files describing self-driving technology research and brought them to Otto, which he co-founded.

Parts of the lawsuit read like a spy novel. Waymo alleges Levandowski, who now works at Uber, used special software to access the files and reformatted his computer to cover his tracks. It says Uber used the information after it acquired Otto.

The lawsuit complicates the already-difficult relationship between the two companies. GV, Alphabet’s venture capital arm, invested in Uber in 2013. It was one of the firm’s most high-profile deals.

“Our parent company Alphabet has long worked with Uber in many areas, and we didn’t make this decision lightly,” Waymo said in a blog post. “However, given the overwhelming facts that our technology has been stolen, we have no choice but to defend our investment and development of this unique technology.”

“We take the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously,” an Uber spokeswoman said. “We will review this matter carefully.”

Self-driving cars are a red-hot area of research in the automotive industry. Autonomous vehicles show the potential to greatly reduce or even eliminate the tens of thousands of deaths that occur on US roads every year. The technology may also reduce traffic jams, a major fuel and time waster in US cities. Equipment suppliers, start-ups and big tech companies, in addition to automakers, are all developing self-driving car technology.

Uber has been pursuing its own self-driving car research and pilot programs. Last year, it attempted to use self-driving cars to pick up passengers on San Francisco streets. The program was halted because the company didn’t have a permit to operate self-driving cars in California.

Waymo’s suit specifically calls out trade secrets related to “lidar” technology, laser arrays used in self-driving car research to detect objects in a car’s environment.

Waymo said it learned of the alleged theft after a vendor accidentally emailed a Waymo employee, with an attached diagram of an Uber lidar circuit board.

“This circuit board bears a striking resemblance to Waymo’s own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets,” the lawsuit said.

The suit charges that Levandowski went to great lengths to get the files then cover his tracks.

Levandowski downloaded “specialized software” to access the files, downloaded 9.7 gigabytes of confidential information, then transferred the data to an external hard drive.

After that, he installed a new operating system, “attempting to erase any forensic fingerprints,” the lawsuit said.

Read the rest of the lawsuit below. It’s a page turner.

First published Feb. 23, 3:25 p.m. PT.

Update, 5:54 p.m.: Adds background, material from the lawsuit.

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Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it?

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Acer is making an air quality monitor

Acer’s next project is a different type of monitor than you might expect from the company. It’s an air quality monitor, actually. No, wait; where are you going? “The Acer Air Monitor features a sleek and simple design, the device allows real-time monitoring of key air quality indicators through a dedicated app for smartphones, and by the changing colors of a breathing LED light embedded on the chassis,” the company said in a press release. It all sounds very exciting.

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Joel Embiid bids farewell to Nerlens Noel

Hours before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the Philadelphia 76ers struck a deal to send Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a conditional first-round pick.

The idea of moving Noel had been rumored for months, and the Sixers decided to make it happen. Moments after hearing the news, Joel Embiid, who was at shootaround barefoot, hugged it out with Noel and gave a proper farewell.

Then Embiid, who has personally branded the “Trust the Process” slogan, shared a heartfelt tweet expressing how much he’ll miss his now-former teammate.

The two big men are expected to face each other March 17 when Noel makes his first return to the Wells Fargo Center as a Maverick.

— Josiah Turner

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How to watch LG’s G6 unveiling live

LG is stepping into the world’s biggest phone show with a new flagship handset, the LG G6.

The event, which takes place this Sunday, February 26 in Barcelona, will kick off the press day of Mobile World Congress. The fun begins at 12:00 noon Spanish time from the Sant Jordi Club, just next to the city’s Olympic Stadium. That’s 11 a.m. if you’re in the UK, but it’s more than a little early on a Sunday morning for US residents at 6:00 a.m. ET and 3:00 a.m. PT.

If you’re up and about, you can watch it on LG’s live stream above. And if you live elsewhere, here’s the start time for your place on the planet.



Though the official details of the G6 are still under wraps, LG has been releasing choice morsels about the phone over the past few weeks. CNET’s Lynn La expects it to have a bezel-less display with rounder edges, a waterproof design and Google Assistant AI software built in. But unlike the previous phone in the LG G family, the G5, the G6 won’t have a modular design.

CNET will be on the ground in Barcelona to bring you full coverage of the G6 in words, pictures and video so check back with us then.

Mobile World Congress: Catch CNET’s full coverage.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you’ll find in CNET’s newsstand edition.

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How to get banned from Disney’s Club Penguin in under 30 seconds

But, it could actually be done much more quickly. As Kevin writes in the comments on YouTube, if there were a way for him to bypass email activation, which is needed for chat and thus banning, he could’ve cut the time down to an expedient 20.1 seconds. If you want to try and best his time for yourself, Kevin has uploaded what you’ll need to GitHub. Be quick, though — Club Penguin shuts down March 29th.

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Should Dallas trade Bogut?

1:01 AM ET

With the Dallas Mavericks three games out of the West playoffs, center Andrew Bogut has been a popular name in trade talks ahead of Thursday’s deadline. Will Dallas move him? If so, where? Our NBA Insiders weigh in.

Should the Mavs be buyers or sellers at the deadline?

Amin Elhassan: Sellers. Yes, Dallas has come on strong after an abysmal start, and coach Rick Carlisle will always maximize the talent he has available, but I think the gap has widened between them and 8-seed competitors Denver and New Orleans. It’s not too late to pare down and make a meaningful run at a top-7 pick this June.

Kevin Pelton: Sellers. With the New Orleans Pelicans adding Cousins, the Mavericks’ odds of coming back to make the playoffs this season have gotten even longer. Besides, Dallas has played just fine without veterans Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams, the two Mavericks with expiring contracts.

Bogut probably doesn’t have value, and Williams’ salary might make him more viable as a buyout candidate, but if the Mavericks could get a second-round pick for either player they should pounce.

What trades should the Mavericks consider?

Bradford Doolittle: The Mavs have been over .500 the last two months, and if they pick up that pace even a little, they could make the playoffs. Playing the Warriors on the wrong side of a 1-8 matchup gives Dallas at least a shot at getting even for 2007.

I think you can make the playoff push by going with the younger guys that have played well alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes. That gives them the leeway to shop Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut.

However, Williams would have to consent to a deal, so that might be tricky. And if you find a match for Bogut, you’ve got to replace his rim protection, which has been a bugaboo for this Dallas team.

With the fifth-best point differential in the league, the Jazz are well-positioned to pursue home court and present an interesting second-round test for Golden State. Plus, the Jazz have the cap space to take on a decently sized contract and a couple of extra first-rounders.

How about this: Alec Burks and the Jazz’s extra 2017 first-rounder from Golden State to Dallas for the expiring deals of Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. I like Williams as a third guard who can anchor the second unit while also playing next to George Hill. Bogut would keep the back of the defense strong when Rudy Gobert rests (the Utah defense falls off by 6.2 points per 100 possessions when Gobert sits).

Jeremias Engelmann: I think Barnes is making too much money for his impact (Real Plus-Minus: -0.3), but the Mavericks’ front office might think otherwise. Given that the Mavs have a very slim chance to make the playoffs — they’re fifth in a six-team race for the right to get swept by the Warriors — I’d make Williams and Bogut available as their contracts run out.

Wasn’t Cleveland looking for a playmaker? Williams would be a good fit. And Bogut might be a significant upgrade for many teams without a good rim protector (including Boston and Cleveland). The Mavs should be looking to get future draft picks in return.

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