- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company’s $US245 settlement with Waymo was “well worthwhile.”
- The case put a “pretty significant question mark” over the work of Uber’s employees, he said, and the firm wanted to put the case behind it.
- Khosrowshahi joined the company five months ago, and is trying to right the ship after a string of scandals.
SAN FRANCISCO – Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the embattled transportation firm’s $US245 million settlement with Waymo was “well worthwhile” in his first major public appearance since the case ended last week.
The technology executive, speaking at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco, California, addressed the ugly legal battle over self-driving car technology and other subjects during a wide-ranging on-stage interview.
Since being appointed five months ago after previous CEO Travis Kalanick departed following a string of scandals, Khosrowshahi said one of his key priorities was “removing distractions.”
“I think the Waymo settlement to some extent was a part of that. Hey, let’s get this stuff away, let’s start executing as a business, because I think as an execution machine we have good people and we have good products.”
Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, had accused Uber of stealing purported trade secrets relating to autonomous vehicle technology. The trial and its run-up was an ugly affair, further battering Uber’s self-image as it wrestled with the fallout from numerous scandals, including allegations of workplace sexism and a string of executive departures.
A week into the trial, Uber agreed to pay Waymo $US245 million in equity to settle the case. It did not admit wrongdoing, though the chief executive in a statement expressed “regret” and said the events that led to the trial “should have been handled differently.”
Speaking at Wednesday’s conference, Khosrowshahi framed the settlement as a necessary step in Uber achieving closure and moving past historic mistakes.
“It was a very, very significant distraction for the teams that were working on our autonomous technology, and I’d say it was not only a distraction but it was a personal affront,” he said.
“These are scientists who have cars and transportation and autonomy in their blood, many of them have dedicated their entire professional career on this quest, and it’s gone from … a crazy dream to something that’s going to get real.”
He added: “I think that this was a distraction and it also put their really good work under a question mark, and a pretty significant question mark.”
The $US245 million settlement’s role in putting the case behind Uber and “normalizing relationships with Alphabet, Google” made it “well worthwhile,” he said.
The executive, who was previously CEO of Expedia, also talked more broadly about his efforts to right the ship at Uber: “It looked messy and it was messy.”