American ride-sharing service Uber will appear before a US judge on Wednesday to challenge a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc's autonomous car unit Waymo that threatened to overthrow Uber's ambitious self-driving car programme.
The latest move by Uber is expected to take the courtroom battle over trade secrets to a new level as the former is ready to fight against a possible shutdown of its self-driving car project, which is considered vital for the company's growth strategy.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based transportation company will be contesting accusations against former Waymo engineer and current Uber executive Anthony Levandowski of misusing Waymo's confidential technical information to help develop Uber's self-driving car programme.
Waymo has demanded in the lawsuit that US District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco issue an injunction blocking Uber from using any of the technical information that was allegedly stolen. If the court rules against Uber, it could mean a premature end to the company's autonomous car project.
Although Alsup is not expected to announce the ruling on Wednesday, he did indicate at a hearing last month that Uber could face an injunction.
"I've never seen a record this strong in 42 years," Alsup had said at that time.
Many, including Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick, believe that autonomous vehicles are crucial for the company's long-term success. If the charges against Levandowski and Uber turn out to be accurate, it could have terrible consequences for the company, which is expected to be a dominant player in the emerging business of self-driving cars, Reuters reported.
"This is central to Uber," Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University, told Reuters. "If Google can't launch their self-driving car for 10 years instead of five, this will be a little blip in Google's multibillion-dollar revenue. Uber is the one that really depends on it."