THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE in building an autonomous vehicle is giving the car the ability to see the world. It requires a thorough understanding of lidar, the radar-like system of lasers that creates the digital map each car needs to navigate the world safely and competently.
Mastering lidar is essential to the technological and commercial success of robo-cars, yet there is much work to be done. Most automakers are still figuring out how to make it robust enough for automobiles, and cheap enough for consumers.
Doing this demands a serious investment and expertise. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car outfit, says hundreds of its engineers spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars perfecting the company’s lidar. And it accuses Uber of stealing its work.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Waymo claims Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 technical files from a company server.