Self-driving car engineer Anthony Levandowski files motion to force Uber into arbitration

Anthony Levandowski, the star self-driving car engineer who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit, has filed a motion to compel Uber into arbitration in the hopes that his former employee will have to shoulder the cost of at least part of the $179 million judgment against him.

The motion to compel arbitration filed this week is part of Levandowski’s bankruptcy proceedings. It’s the latest chapter in a long and winding legal saga that has entangled Uber and Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet.

The motion represents the first legal step to force Uber to stand by an indemnity agreement with Levandowski. Uber signed an indemnity agreement in 2016 when it acquired Levandowski’s self-driving truck startup Otto . Under the agreement, Uber said it would indemnify — or compensate — Levandowski against claims brought by his former employer, Google.

In Uber’s view the stakes are at least $64 million, according to the ride-hailing company’s annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission . Although Levandowski, who was ordered in March 2020 to pay Google $179 million, is clearly shooting for more.

“For much of the past three years, Anthony ceded control of his personal defense to Uber because Uber insisted on controlling his defense as part of its duty to indemnify him. Then, when Uber didn’t like the outcome, it suddenly changed its mind and said it would not indemnify him. What Uber did is wrong, and Anthony has to protect his rights as a result,” Levandowksi’s lawyer Neel Chatterjee of Goodwin Procter said in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.

The backstory

Levandowski was an engineer and one of the founding members in 2009 of the Google self-driving project, which was internally called Project Chauffeur. The Google self-driving project later spun out to become Waymo, a business under Alphabet. Levandowski was paid about $127 million by Google for his work on Project Chauffeur, according to the court document filed this week.

Levandowski left Google in January 2016 and started Otto, a self-driving trucking company, with three other Google veterans: Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette. Uber acquired Otto less than eight months later.

Before the acquisition closed, Uber conducted due diligence, including hiring outside forensic investigation firm Stroz Friedberg to review the electronic devices of Levandowski and other Otto employees, according to the recent court filing. The investigation discovered that Levandowski had on his devices files belonging to Google, as well as indications that evidence may have been destroyed.

Uber agreed to a broad indemnification agreement in spite of the forensic evidence, which would protect Levandowski against claims brought by Google relating to his previous employment. Levandowski was worried that Google would attempt to get back any or all of the $127 million in compensation he had received.

That forecast didn’t take long to come true. Two months after the acquisition, Google made two arbitration demands against Levandowski and Ron. Uber wasn’t a party to either arbitration. However, it was on the hook, under the indemnification agreement, to defend Levandowski.

Uber accepted those obligations and defended Levandowski. While the arbitrations played out, Waymo separately filed a lawsuit against Uber in February 2017 for trade secret theft. Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial and ended in a settlement, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber. Under the settlement, Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That calculated at the time to about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

Meanwhile, the arbitration panel issued an interim award in March 2019 against each of Google’s former employees, including a $127 million judgment against Levandowski. The judgment also included another $1 million that Levandowski and Ron were jointly liable for. Google submitted a request for interest, attorney fees and other costs. A final award was issued in December.

Ron settled with Google in February for $9.7 million. However, Levandowski, disputed the ruling. The San Francisco County Superior Court denied his petition in March, granting Google’s petition to hold Levandowski to the arbitration agreement under which he was liable.

As the legal wrangling between Google and Levandowski and Uber played out, the engineer faced criminal charges. In August 2019, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets while working at Google. Last month, Levandowski reached a plea agreement with the U.S. District Attorney and pleaded guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets.

What’s next

Levandowski’s lawyers argue that when the final judgment was entered against him, Uber reneged on its indemnification agreement. Levandowski said he was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because Uber has refused to pay.

“While Uber and Levandowski are parties to an indemnification agreement, whether Uber is ultimately responsible for such indemnification is subject to a dispute between the Company and Levandowski,” Uber said, using similar language found in its annual report filed with the SEC.

Even if Levandowski’s legal team is able to convince a judge to compel Uber into arbitration, that doesn’t mean the outcome will be positive. Arbitration could take months to play out. In the end, Levandowski could still lose. But the filing allows Levandowski to speak out — albeit using legalese — and share details of his employment at Google and Uber. Among those are details about what Uber knew (and when) about Levandowski’s activities in recruiting Google employees as well as information he had downloaded onto his laptop and discovered during the forensic investigation.

The first cracks between Uber and Levandowski appeared in April 2018, based on a timeline in the court document. It was then that Uber told Levandowski it intended to seek reimbursement for expenses used to defend him in the arbitration, according to claims laid out in the motion. Uber told Levandowski at the time that one reason it was seeking reimbursement is because Levandowski “refused to testify at his deposition through an unjustifiably broad invocation of the Fifth Amendment.” Levandowski had used the Fifth Amendment in the deposition during the arbitration with Google.

Uber never requested Levandowski waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testify during the arbitration, according to the court document. Levandowski said that he immediately alerted Google and the arbitration panel that he was willing to testify and offered to make himself available for deposition before the arbitration hearing.

Levandowski-Uber Motion to Compel by TechCrunch on Scribd

TuSimple partners with supplier ZF to mass produce self-driving truck tech

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple is partnering with automotive supplier ZF to develop and produce autonomous vehicle technology, such as sensors, on a commercial scale.

The partnership, slated to begin in April, will cover China, Europe and North America. The two companies will co-develop sensors needed in autonomous vehicle technology such as cameras, lidar, radar and a central computer. As part of the partnership, ZF will contribute engineering support to validate and integrate TuSimple’s autonomous system into the vehicle.

TuSimple launched in 2015 and has operations in China, San Diego and Tucson, Ariz. The company has been working on a “full-stack solution,” an industry term that means developing and bringing together all of the technological pieces required for autonomous driving. TuSimple is developing a Level 4 system, a designation by the SAE that means the vehicle takes over all of the driving in certain conditions.

TuSimple has managed to scale up its operations and attract investors even as other companies in the nascent autonomous vehicle technology industry have faltered. The company has raised nearly $300 million to date from investors such as Sina, UPS and Tier 1 supplier Mando Corporation. It’s now making about 20 autonomous trips between Arizona and Texas each week with a fleet of more than 40 autonomous trucks. All of the trucks have a human safety operator behind the wheel.

The partnership is an important milestone for TuSimple as the startup prepares to bring autonomous-ready trucks to market, TuSimple chief product officer Chuck Price said in a statement. The plan is for TuSimple to combine its self-driving software with ZF’s ability to build automotive grade products.

The partnership doesn’t remove every barrier for TuSimple. Moving from development to deployment takes millions of dollars of investment. If a company can move from testing to commercial deployment, it must still navigate daily operations efficiently in the aim of becoming profitable.

Anthony Levandowski pleads guilty to one count of trade secrets theft under plea deal

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has pleaded guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets while working at Google under a plea agreement reached with the U.S. District Attorney.

While Levandowski still faces a possible prison sentence of between 24 to 30 months, the outcome is much rosier than it could have been. In August, federal grand jury indicted Levandowski on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft. He was looking at a protracted legal fight and a trial that wasn’t expected to begin until 2021.

“Mr. Levandowski accepts responsibility and is looking forward to resolving this matter. Mr. Levandowski is a young man with enormous talents and much to contribute to the fast-moving world of AI and AV and we hope that this plea will allow him to move on with his life and focus his energies where they matter most,” his attorney, Miles Ehrlich said in an emailed statement.

Under the plea agreement, Levandowski admits to downloading thousands of files related to Project Chauffeur, the Google self-driving project that later spun out to become Waymo . Levandowski was an engineer and one of the founding members of Project Chauffeur, which launched in 2009. Scroll down to read the plea agreement.

He said that in 2015, prior to leaving to start his own self-driving trucking company, he downloaded 14,000 documents from an internal Google server and transferred it to his laptop. Levandowski specifically pleaded guilty to count 33 of the indictment, which is related to taking what was known as the Chauffeur Weekly Update, a spreadsheet that contained a variety of details including quarterly goals and weekly metrics, the team’s objectives and key results as well as summaries of 15 technical challenges faced by the program and notes related to previous challenges that had been overcome, according to the filing.

Levandowski said in the plea agreement that he downloaded the Chauffeur Weekly Update to his personal laptop on or about January 17, 2016, and accessed the document after his resignation from Google, which occurred about 10 days later.

“Mr. Levandowski’s guilty plea in a criminal hearing today brings to an end a seminal case for our company and the self-driving industry and underscores the value of Waymo’s intellectual property,” a Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Through today’s development and related cases, we are successfully protecting our intellectual property as we build the world’s most experienced driver.”

Levandowski left Google and started Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was then bought by Uber. Waymo later sued Uber for trade secret theft. Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial and ended in a settlement, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber. Under the settlement, Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That calculated at the time to about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

The plea deal puts an end to any criminal charges. However, Levandowski still faces a civil matter. An arbitration panel ruled in December that Levandowski and Lior Ron had engaged in unfair competition and breached their contract with Google when they left the company to start a rival autonomous vehicle company focused on trucking, called Otto. Uber acquired Otto in 2017. Earlier this month, San Francisco County court confirmed the panel’s decision and order Levandowski to pay $179 million.

Ron settled in February 2019 with Google for $9.7 million. Levandowski had disputed the ruling. The San Francisco County Superior Court denied his petition, granting Google’s petition to hold Levandowski to the arbitration agreement under which he was liable. Levandowski himself may not have to pay the money personally, as this sort of liability may fall to his employer depending on his contract or other legal quirks. However, Levandowski personally filed March 4 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating that the presumptive $179 million debt quite exceeds his assets, which he estimates at somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.

Anthony Levandowski plea agreement by TechCrunch on Scribd

Waymo suspends robotaxi service except for its truly driverless vehicles

Waymo said Tuesday it is pausing operations of Waymo One, a service in the Phoenix area that allows the public to hail rides in self-driving vehicles with trained human safety operators behind the wheel, in in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waymo is also halting testing on public roads in California.

However, Waymo will keep some operations up and running, notably its truly driverless vehicles, which don’t require a human safety driver, according to an announcement on its website Tuesday. These driverless vehicles are used in the Phoenix area as part of Waymo’s early rider program that lets vetted members of the public to hail a ride.

Both the Waymo early rider program and Waymo One service use self-driving Chrysler  Pacifica minivans to shuttle Phoenix residents in a geofenced area that covers several suburbs, including Chandler and Tempe. Until last fall, all of these “self-driving rides” had a human safety driver behind the wheel.

In October, Waymo started to invite members of its early rider program to take driverless rides with no human safety operator behind the wheel.

Waymo says that it has stepped up efforts to clean its driverless vehicles. The vehicles will be cleaned and sanitized several times throughout the day. The company said it has also added sanitizing products to every Waymo car for rider use.

Here’s the entire statement:

In the interest of the health and safety of our riders and the entire Waymo community, we’re pausing our Waymo One service with trained drivers in Metro Phoenix for now as we continue to watch COVID-19 developments. We’ve also paused driving in California in line with local guidance. 

Our fully driverless operations in Phoenix will continue for now within our early rider program, along with our local delivery and trucking efforts.

We can carry out driverless, delivery, and trucking services for our riders and partners while respecting the important social distancing and hygiene guidelines shared by the CDC and local authorities. Removing the human driver holds great promise for not only for making our roads safer, but for helping our riders stay healthy in these uncertain times.

We’ll continue to monitor COVID-19 developments carefully, and we’ll reach out to our riders if there are any further service changes. Until then, our Rider Support team will be available to answer any questions. 

Stay healthy and thanks from all of us at Waymo.

The move follows guidance from the federal government to take special efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. It also comes after at least one incident of a human safety driver in a Waymo One vehicle refusing to pick up someone at Intel’s campus in Chandler, Arizona because they had heard a case of COVID-19 had been reported.

Waymo’s partnership with UPS, which involves delivery trips and truck testing outside of California will continue.

Waymo brings in $2.25 billion from outside investors, Alphabet

Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project that is now a business under Alphabet, said Monday it raised $2.25 billion in a fundraising round led by Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Mubadala Investment Company.

This is the company’s first external investment, which also included Magna, Andreessen Horowitz and AutoNation and its parent company Alphabet.

“We’ve always approached our mission as a team sport, collaborating with our OEM and supplier partners, our operations partners, and the communities we serve to build and deploy the world’s most experienced driver,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in blog the company posted Monday. “Today, we’re expanding that team, adding financial investors and important strategic partners who bring decades of experience investing in and supporting successful technology companies building transformative products. With this injection of capital and business acumen, alongside Alphabet, we’ll deepen our investment in our people, our technology, and our operations, all in support of the deployment of the Waymo Driver around the world.”

The round follows a flurry of activity in the past year that illustrated Waymo efforts to ramp up into a commercial enterprise. Much of the activity has focused on mapping and testing its autonomous vehicle technology in new locales such as Florida, while continuing to expand its core fleet in Mountain View, Calif., and the Phoenix area.

Waymo has long focused on testing and eventually launching an on-demand ride-hailing service called Waymo One using its autonomous vehicles in the suburbs surrounding Phoenix. In October, Waymo began pulling safety drivers out of some of the vehicles on its Waymo One service.

But there have been other expansions, including a focus on finding new business applications for its autonomous vehicle technology such as delivery and trucking and even a plan to start selling its custom lidar sensors, to companies outside of self-driving cars such as robotics, security and agricultural technology.

In January, Waymo announced that it would begin mapping and eventually testing its autonomous long-haul trucks in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

Waymo has also expanded through acquisitions and partnerships. Waymo acquired in December a U.K. company called Latent Logic that spun out of Oxford University’s computer science department. The company uses a form of machine learning called imitation learning that could beef up Waymo’s simulation efforts. The acquisition marked the launch of Waymo’s first European engineering hub, which will be in Oxford, U.K.

Last spring, Waymo hired more than a dozen engineers from Anki, the robotics startup that shut down in April. The 13 robotics experts includes Anki’s  co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, who is leading engineering in the autonomous trucking division.

Waymo also locked in an exclusive partnership with Renault and Nissan to research how commercial autonomous vehicles might work for passengers and packages in France and Japan.

Announcing the agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

TC Sessions: Mobility is back in San Jose on May 14, and we’re excited to give the first peek of what and who is coming to the main stage. We’re not revealing everything just yet, but already this agenda highlights some of the best and brightest minds in autonomous vehicles, electrification and shared mobility.

We’ve selected the most innovative startups and top leaders from established tech companies working in mobility. This past year saw huge leaps forward, and we’re thrilled to bring the latest and greatest to our stage.

This year, we’re holding a pitch-off competition for early stage mobility companies. More details to come.

Don’t forget that early-bird tickets (including $100 savings) are currently available for a limited time; grab your tickets here before prices increase.

Some speakers have already been announced, and more will be added to the agenda in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out this early look at the agenda:

AGENDA

9:35 AM – 10:05 AM

Investing in Mobility: with Reilly Brennan (Trucks VC), Olaf Sakkers (Maniv Mobility) and speakers to be announced.

Reilly Brennan, Olaf Sakkers and two yet-to-be announced venture capitalists will come together to debate the uncertain future of mobility tech and whether VC dollars are enough to push the industry forward.

10:05 AM – 10:25 AM

Coming soon!

10:25 AM – 10:50

The next opportunities in micromobility with Danielle Harris (Elemental Excelerator), Dor Levi (Lyft), and Dmitry Shevelenko (Tortoise)

Worldwide, numerous companies are operating shared micromobility services — so many that the industry is well into a consolidation phase. Despite the over-saturation of the market, there are still opportunities for new players. Dor Levi, head of bikes and scooters at Lyft, Danielle Harris, director of mobility innovation at Elemental Excelerator and Dmitry Shevelenko, founder at Tortoise will discuss.

10:50 AM – 11:10 AM

Waymo Grows Up with Tekedra Mawakana (Waymo)

Waymo Chief Operating Officer Tekedra Mawakana is at the center of Waymo’s future from scaling the autonomous vehicle company’s commercial deployment and directing fleet operations to developing the company’s business path. Tekedra will speak about what lies ahead as Waymo drives forward with its plan to become a grownup business.

11:10 AM – 11:30 AM
Innovation Break

11:30 AM – 11:40 AM

Live Demo. Coming soon!

11:40 AM – 12:00 PM

Setting the Record Straight with Bryan Salesky (Argo AI)

Argo AI has gone from unknown startup to a company providing the autonomous vehicle technology to Ford and VW — not to mention billions in investment from the two global automakers. Co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky will talk about the company’s journey, what’s next and what it really takes to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology.

1:00 PM – 1:25 PM

Pitch-Off

Select, early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have 5 minutes to present their companies.

1:25 PM – 1:45 PM

Building an AV Startup with  Nancy Sun (Ike)

Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun will share her experiences in the world of automation and robotics, a ride that has taken her from Apple to Otto and Uber before she set off to start a self-driving truck company. Sun will discuss what the future holds for trucking and the challenges and the secrets behind building a successful mobility startup.

1:45 PM – 2:10 PM

Working with Cities, Not Against Them with Euwyn Poon (Spin) and Shin-pei Tsay (Uber)

Many micromobility services got off to a rough start with cities in the early days of the industry. Now, operators are making a point to work more closely with regulators from the very beginning. Hear from Spin co-founder Euwyn Poon and Uber Director of Policy, Cities and Transportation Shin-pei Tsay on what it takes to make a copacetic relationship between operators and cities.

2:10 PM – 2:30 PM

Innovation Break

2:30 PM – 2:50 PM

The electrification of Porsche with Klaus Zellmer (Porsche)

Porsche has undergone a major transformation in the past several years, investing billions into an electric vehicle program and launching the Taycan, its first all-electric vehicle. Now, Porsche is ramping up for more. North America CEO Klaus Zellmer will talk about Porsche’s path, competition and where it’s headed next.

2:50 PM – 3:15 PM

Navigating Self-Driving Car Regulations with Melissa Froelich (Aurora) and Jody Kelman (Lyft)

Autonomous vehicle developers face a patchwork of local, state and federal regulations. Government policy experts Jody Kelman, who leads the self-driving platform team at Lyft, and Melissa Froelich Senior Manager, Government Affairs at Aurora, discuss how to get your startup back on the road safely.

3:15 PM – 3:35 PM

Coming Soon!

3:35 PM – 4:00 PM

The Future of Trucking with Xiaodi Hou (TuSimple) and Boris Sofman (Waymo)

TuSimple co-founder and CTO Xiaodi Hou and Boris Sofman, former Anki Robotics founder and CEO who now leads Waymo’s trucking unit, will discuss the business and the technical challenges of autonomous trucking.

4:00 PM – 4:20 PM

Innovation Break

4:20 PM – 4:30 PM

Live Demo. Coming soon!

4:30 PM – 4:55 PM

Coming soon!

Don’t forget to grab your tickets and join us this May.

Lyft ramps up self-driving program

A year ago, Lyft submitted a report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles that summed up its 2018 autonomous vehicle testing activity in a single, short paragraph.

“Lyft Inc. did not operate any vehicles in autonomous mode on California public roads during the reporting period,” the letter read. “As such, Lyft Inc. has no autonomous mode disengagements to report.”

The 2019 data tells a different story. Lyft had 19 autonomous vehicles testing on public roads in California in 2019, according to data released earlier this week by the CA DMV. Those 19 vehicles, which operated during the reporting period of December 2018 to November 2019, drove nearly 43,000 miles in autonomous mode.

The report is the latest sign that Lyft is trying to ramp up its self-driving vehicle program known as Level 5. 

The CA DMV, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in the state, requires companies to submit an annual report that includes data such as total AV miles driven and number of vehicles. It also requires companies to report “disengagements,” a term that describes each time a self-driving vehicle disengages out of autonomous mode either because its technology failed or a human safety driver took manual control for safety reasons.

That’s still far below established AV developers such as Cruise and Waymo, which accumulated 831,000 and 1.45 million autonomous miles, respectively. And it makes up just a tiny sliver of the total autonomous miles racked up by the 36 companies that tested on public roads in 2019.

The total number of autonomous miles driven in 2019 rose 40%, to more than 2.87 million, thanks largely to a notable uptick in public on-road testing by Baidu, Cruise, Pony.ai, Waymo and Zoox. While the number of companies with testing permits grew to 60 in 2019, the percentage of companies actually testing on public roads fell to about 58%. In 2018, about 62% of the 48 companies that held permits tested on public roads.

Other companies scaled back public testing in California. Some moved public testing outside of California, others retracted due to the high cost. Others said they were opting to place greater emphasis on simulation.

Still, the report shows Lyft is doing more than partnering with autonomous vehicle companies like Aptiv . Lyft and Aptiv launched a robotaxi pilot in January 2018 in Las Vegas. The program, which puts Aptiv vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network, surpassed 100,000 rides this month. Human safety drivers are always behind the wheel and the vehicles do not drive autonomously in parking lots and hotel lobby areas.

Lyft’s Level 5 program — a nod to the SAE automated driving level that means the vehicle handles all driving in all conditions — was launched in July 2017. Today, Level 5 employs more than 400 people in the U.S., Munich and London.

Testing on public roads in California began in November 2018 with a pilot program in Palo Alto that provided rides to Lyft employees in Palo Alto. The pilot provided on-demand rides set on fixed routes, such as traveling between the Lyft office and Caltrain.

Since then, the company has expanded the scope and geography of the pilot. By late 2019, Lyft was driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was six months prior.

Lyft is also testing on a dedicated closed-course track in East Palo Alto that it opened in November 2019. The company told TechCrunch it uses this facility, which can be changed to include intersections, traffic lights and merges, to test software prior to putting its vehicles on public roads.

Show off your startup at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Remember when “mobility” meant laptops and cell phones? Those were quaint times. Now the category encompasses the future of transportation — everything from flying cars and autonomous vehicles to delivery bots and beyond. There’s no better place to explore this rapidly moving industry than TC Sessions: Mobility 2020, our day-long conference in San Jose on May 14.

And there’s no better place to showcase your early-stage mobility startup. Consider this: more than 1,000 of mobility’s brightest technologists, engineers, founders and investors will be on hand to explore the future of this rapidly evolving technology. So why not buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package and plant your business squarely in the path of this group of enthusiastic influencers?

Your exhibitor package includes a 30-inch high-boy table, power, linen, signage — and four tickets to the event. You and your team can strut your startup stuff, take advantage of hyper-focused networking and still enjoy the event’s presentations and workshops.

We’re building our agenda, and we just started announcing speakers on a rolling basis. If you know someone who should be onstage at this event? Hit us up and nominate a speaker here.

We already told you that Waymo’s Boris Sofman and Ike Robotics’ Nancy Sun will join us. And we’re thrilled that Reilly Brennan, founding general partner of Trucks VC, a seed-stage venture capital fund for entrepreneurs, will also grace our stage. Brennan’s many investments include May Mobility, Nauto, nuTonomy, Joby Aviation, Skip and Roadster.

Will your startup be his next investment? Stranger things have happened.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 takes place on May 14 in San Jose, Calif. Spend a full day of exploring the art and science of mobility, and don’t miss your chance to introduce your startup to influential movers and shakers. These are heady times in the mobility industry, and it’s moving faster than the race to market a viable flying car. Buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package, and you might just transport your business to a whole new level.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Uber issued permit to test self-driving vehicles on California public roads

Uber Advanced Technologies Group has been issued a permit that would allow the company to put its autonomous vehicles back on public roads in California nearly two years after the company scaled back its testing program following a fatal crash in Arizona that killed a pedestrian.

Uber doesn’t have immediate plans to put its autonomous vehicles on public roads in San Francisco, where it was previously testing. The company says it will notify key local, state, and federal stakeholders before it returns to the city.

“San Francisco is a great city to gather key learnings for self-driving technology given it’s complex and ever changing environment. While we do not have an update as to exactly when we’ll resume autonomous testing, receiving our testing permit through the California DMV is a critical step towards that end in Uber’s home city,” an Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The permit, which is issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, is the latest step by Uber’s self-driving unit to ramp up a program that appeared destined to end just 18 months ago.

Uber ATG ended all testing on public roads after one of its vehicles struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. Uber ATG was testing its self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix area, Toronto, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. At the time, the company let go all 100 of its self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh and San Francisco and rumors circulated that the company wanted to sell its self-driving unit.

Uber ATG resumed in December 2018 on-road testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh, following the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s decision to authorize the company to put its autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Uber has also started mapping Washington, D.C., ahead of plans to begin testing its self-driving vehicles in the city this year. Initially, there will be three Uber vehicles mapping the area, a company spokesperson said. These vehicles, which will be manually driven and have two trained employees inside, will collect sensor data using a top-mounted sensor wing equipped with cameras and a spinning lidar. The data will be used to build high-definition maps. The data will also be used for Uber’s virtual simulation and test track testing scenarios.

Uber intends to launch autonomous vehicles in Washington, D.C. before the end of 2020.

Self-driving company Waymo teams up with UPS for package delivery

Waymo will start delivering parcels for UPS using its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix as part of a broader partnership with the shipping and logistics company.

The companies said Wednesday that Waymo will pilot autonomous vehicle package pickup in metro Phoenix — the same area where its self-driving vehicles already operate. The minivans will take packages from UPS store locations to a local UPS sorting facility for processing. The pilot won’t involve package delivery to consumers.

While this is a pilot, both companies said the goal is to jointly develop a “long-term plan for how the companies can work together.” Waymo chief operations officer Tekedra Mawakana added that the partnership will allow us to continue developing how our Waymo Driver can facilitate pickups.

Today, Waymo has more than 600 self-driving vehicles in its fleet, the majority of which are in Arizona. Waymo is modifying some of its Chrysler Pacifica minivans for package delivery by removing the back seats.

The vehicles used in the Arizona pilot will drive autonomously with a Waymo-trained driver on board to monitor operations.

This isn’t the first self-driving technology company that UPS has partnered with. TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, runs two trips daily for UPS between Phoenix and El Paso. UPS announced last year that it took a minority stake in TuSimple, just months after the two companies began testing the use of autonomous trucks in Arizona.

The size of minority investment, which was made by the company’s venture arm UPS Ventures, was not disclosed.