Investigator finds Uber still using Waymo tech
The NTSB, meanwhile, has scheduled a public meeting related to the March 2018 fatal accident.
Uber is apparently facing more potential autonomous-driving trouble after an investigator determined that the company is still using proprietary technology developed by Waymo and allegedly stolen by Anthony Levandowski.
The ride-hailing company last year agreed to a $245 million settlement that included a provision to appoint an independent software expert to ensure that its hardware and software do not use Waymo's intellectual property.
"The independent software expert recently made adverse findings as to certain functions in our autonomous vehicle software," Uber wrote in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing. "These findings, which are final, will likely result in a license fee or in design changes that could require substantial time and resources to implement, and could limit or delay our production of autonomous vehicle technologies."
The Form 10-Q filing lists Waymo several other times in its lengthy Risk Factors section, noting that the Alphabet-owned company has already launched a commercial autonomous taxi fleet and other rivals may also beat Uber to market. Autonomous vehicles represent an existential threat to Uber if any rival can launch such technology on a large scale, potentially undercutting the already heavily-subsidized pricing structures for contractor-driven rides, meal delivery, and other logistics services.
"We expect certain competitors to commercialize autonomous vehicle technologies at scale before we do," the filing admitted.
The first fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle occurred in March 2018 when an autonomous Uber prototype struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The National Transportation Safety Board is due to hold a public meeting later this month as its investigation into the incident continues.
The agency has already determined that Uber's software detected the obstacle more than six seconds before impact, yet struggled to properly classify the jaywalking pedestrian until 1.3 seconds before the crash when it called for an emergency braking maneuver. The Volvo XC90's pedestrian braking tech and the autonomous system's emergency braking functions had both been disabled to avoid 'erratic' behavior, however, relying instead on the human safety driver.
The fatal accident illuminated technological and operational deficiencies within Uber's self-driving program, while the latest Waymo revelations suggest the software team will have to go back to the drawing board once again. Uber recently closed a deal that will provide $1 billion in funding, including $400 million from Toyota, to help the partners accelerate development and deployment of autonomous ride-sharing technology. It is unlikely the collaboration and investment will be enough to catch up to Waymo in the near term, however.