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Uber and Waymo pick their jury, now it's trial time

It's all systems go in one of Silicon Valley's most anticipated court cases: a battle between two top tech titans over self-driving car trade secrets.

Uber Self-Driving Exterior

Waymo and Uber head to trial next week to battle it out over self-driving car trade secrets. 

Uber

Ten final people stood in Judge William Alsup's courtroom on Wednesday afternoon with their right hands raised.

"You are the jury who will decide this important case," he told them and then asked the clerk to swear them in.

These 10 people, who include five men and five women, will be in San Francisco's District Court for the Northern District of California for at least the next three weeks listening to two of the world's top tech companies battle over self-driving car trade secrets.

The case pits Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google's parent company, Alphabet, against Uber, the world's most highly valued startup. Waymo claims Uber's former star engineer stole 14,000 "highly confidential" files to develop its own technology. Uber calls the claim "baseless."

Since the suit was filed last February, the back-and-forth between the two companies has led to juicy revelations of a kind rarely seen by the public. Court documents have exposed the inner workings of backroom deals, and secretive self-driving car projects with names like "Spider."

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If Uber is found to have pilfered the files, it may be forced to halt its autonomous-vehicle program and hand nearly $2 billion over to Waymo. But Waymo first has to not only prove that Uber got its hands on those 14,000 files, but also that it actually used them to develop its self-driving cars.

"Both sides will have to prove their cases to the jury the old-fashioned way," Alsup wrote in an order filed Tuesday night, "by laying the necessary foundation and relying on admissible evidence and properly designated witnesses."

The list of 99 potential witnesses to take the stand in the case reads like a who's who in Silicon Valley. Among those on the list: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; the controversial former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick; the star engineer who allegedly stole the 14,000 files, Anthony Levandowski; and one of tech's most well-known venture capital investors, Bill Gurley.

During jury selection Wednesday, Alsup and lawyers from the two companies winnowed down the pool from several dozen to 10. Through the process, the jurors were asked about their jobs, hobbies, families and knowledge of the court case to ensure they weren't biased.

"Does anybody know someone who has driven for Uber, Lyft or is a taxi driver?" Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzales asked the juror pool. "There is obvious tension between Uber and taxi drivers because they're competing."

Gonzales went on to ask if anyone had deleted the Uber app or whether the possible jurors think Uber is being sued because it's done something wrong. No one raised a hand.

"The only thing that we ask is that you be fair," Gonzales said. "There is only one person in this room who will tell you the law, it's the guy wearing the robe."

The lawyers then selected their 10 final jurors, and Judge Alsup reminded them not to talk to anyone about the trial, go on the internet or do any research on the case.

"You can't go on Facebook and say what you're doing," Alsup told them. In fact, "get off of Facebook for a while."

The trial is slated to begin Monday with opening statements and the first witnesses being called to the stand. 

First published Jan. 31, 3:34 p.m. PT.
Update, Feb. 1 at 1:58 p.m.: Adds background and video.

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