"Uber has many more patents than Lyft, but they are, in my opinion, more protectionary than visionary," says Dex Wheeler of MCAM International. Uber has acquired a large portfolio of patents so it can attempt to defend itself against potential infringement lawsuits. But Wheeler described these patents as "only OK."
In a legal bruise, a federal judge just ruled that criminal intellectual theft allegations made by Waymo against Uber should be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's office for investigation. And that Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski, poached from Waymo, must be removed from any work relating to a key technology called LIDAR, which helps cars "see."
U.S. District Judge William Alsup stated in court documents revealed Monday, "The evidence indicates that, during the acquisition, Uber likely knew or at least should have known that Levandowski had taken and retained possession of Waymo's confidential files. Waymo has also sufficiently shown ... that the 14,000-plus purloined files likely contain at least some trade secrets."
Uber wanted the case kept in private arbitration.
The not-so-long-term goal for Uber and Lyft is to build a network of vehicles that operates without drivers. Both Lyft and Uber have made ambitious claims about when this might happen, but the two companies differ in their approach to developing the technology. "Uber has made acquisitions in the space to help them along," Wheeler said, but he added, "I still think Lyft is looking at a faster route to self-driving." Wheeler is referring here to the 2016 acquisitions of Otto and Tyto Lidar LLC.
Lyft also has been developing its autonomous drive in partnership with General Motors, which took a 9 percent stake in the start-up in 2015. GM said in its 2016 annual report, "We plan to develop an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S."
GM does also have a partnership with Uber, inked last year, that allows Uber drivers to rent GM vehicles (and Uber has a similar deal with Toyota, which made a strategic investment in Uber in 2016).