Former Uber CEO Kalanick says relationship with 'big brother' Google soured

Cesar Mills
February 8, 2018

Kalanick said he was hoping the two companies - which he described as having a "little brother, big brother" relationship at the time - could find a way to partner.

During Kalanick's testimony on Wednesday, Waymo sought to portray the ex-CEO as so eager to improve Uber's lagging autonomous vehicle business that he forged a deal to acquire a self-driving startup and hire its visionary founder without properly assessing the risks. He recalled that Mr. Page had been "angsty" and asked him: "Why are you doing my thing?"

Former Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick wrapped up his second and last day on the stand in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday by repeating his claim that he didn't hire a top Google engineer for the goal of stealing technology secrets for driverless cars.

In the new Monday cache of documents was a March 2016 set of notes that included an interview of Levandowski himself, in which he was asked whether he had downloaded, copied, or exported various materials to his laptop. The messages were presented in court on Wednesday and were mostly a variation on how important it was to win the race for self-driving cars.

Kalanick was first introduced to self-driving cars when picked up in one by Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

"I don't know, I'm not sure what that's referring to", Kalanick said when asked what it meant. "They picked me up in a self-driving auto and I was like, 'That's pretty cool, '" Kalanick testified on Wednesday. Instead, it came in the form of a clip from the 1987 film Wall Street and showed Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko proclaiming, "Greed is good".

"There's lots of risk in a deal", Kalanick said. His emoji response was a hint.

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Once Uber and Otto struck a basic agreement for an acquisition in April 2016, months before the deal was announced, Mr. Kalanick told Uber executives in a meeting that "golden time is over - it's now wartime".

"We're bringing this case because Uber is cheating".

Mr. Kalanick explained that this phrase was not as nefarious as it sounded.

Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the Latino community thinks Senate Democratic leadership "has turned their back on them". Tesla, for example, has customers pay tens of thousands for cars but loads those vehicles with sensors that provide data to support its self-driving auto efforts. That document, known as the Stroz Report, was finalized in August 2016 and was later made available publicly as part of the court record in October 2017. The winding, sometimes humorous testimony - spawned by exchanges with Waymo's no-nonsense attorney Charles Verhoeven - covered everything from the billionaire's texting slang and hiring decisions to his frayed relationship with Alphabet chief executive Larry Page amid rumors that both men were simultaneously trying to build flying cars (a Silicon Valley no-no, apparently). But he's also emphasized that Waymo faces the hard challenge of proving that the ride-hailing service used stolen technology in its self-driving cars.

Kalanick, who began his testimony on Tuesday, cut a more animated figure on the stand, particularly upon cross-examination from Uber's lawyers.

During the conversation, Kalanick disputed that Google employees were intellectual property. Uber paid $680 million for a startup run by Anthony Levandowski, one of the top engineers in a robotic vehicle project that Google began in 2009 and later spun out into Waymo. He liked "being in the trenches" with small teams.

"Your people are not your IP", Kalanick said he responded to Page.

"It's not as great as we had thought at the beginning", he said.

Other reports by GizPress

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