Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid Google self-driving auto lawsuit

Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid Google self-driving auto lawsuit

Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid Google self-driving auto lawsuit

Uber has fired the head of its self-driving auto unit, Anthony Levandowski, amid the continuing fallout from the engineer's alleged theft of trade secrets from his former employer, Google.

Levandowski is accused of downloading 14,000 documents from his Google computers onto a hard drive and then uploading them into his personal computer and bring them to Uber. A few days earlier, the same judge referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.

Anthony Levandowski was terminated by the ride-share company on Friday, according to a letter his attorneys filed in a public court docket on Tuesday. In a court filing on Tuesday, his attorneys said the judge's order placed "Mr. Levandowski on the horns of an unconstitutional dilemma: either he must waive his Fifth Amendment rights. or face immediate firing". He has repeatedly cited his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when asked about his actions, and he has declined to comply with a judge's recent order to turn over the documents he allegedly stole from Google.

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The case prompted Levandowski in April to temporarily step aside as Uber's top self-driving auto executive and avoid working on anything related to lidar, an array of sensors that enables autonomous vehicles to navigate the roads.

In mid-May, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup issued a partial injunction that fell short of the complete shutdown of Uber's self-driving vehicle efforts that Alphabet lawyers had requested.

His silence has not won him sympathy from U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the judge overseeing the case, who earlier this month said Waymo has "one of the strongest records I've ever seen" showing that Levandowski took the files.

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San Francisco-based Uber said it pressed Levandowski for months to help with the investigation, and did not want to wait until the matter made its way through the courts to decide whether to let him go. Although he is not named in the suit, Alphabet's allegation that Uber knew about and abetted Levandowski's theft has turned him into a pivotal figure in the case.

Uber's dismissal of Mr. Levandowski further undermines its high-profile acquisition past year of his driverless-truck startup, Ottomotto LLC.

Waymo argued in the lawsuit that a "calculated theft" of its technology netted Otto a buyout of more than $500 million and enabled Uber to revive a stalled self-driving auto program.

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It is unclear how much of the $680 million in stock Uber will ultimately have to pay for Otto, as much of the price appeared to be tied to technical milestones. Business Insider confirmed Levandowski's firing with the company.

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