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Former Google Engineer at the Center of the Waymo v. Uber Lawsuit Goes to Trial

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【Summary】Anthony Levandowski, the former Google self-driving car engineer accused of stealing trade secrets related to lidar technology is getting his day in court. Levandowski was a former technical lead at Google, where he oversaw the development of Google first self-driving car before leaving to start autonomous trucking company Otto.

Jeremy Carlton    Apr 30, 2018 5:22 PM PT
Former Google Engineer at the Center of the Waymo v. Uber Lawsuit Goes to Trial

SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Levandowski, the former Google self-driving car engineer accused of stealing trade secrets related to lidar technology is getting his day in court. Levandowski was a former technical lead at Google, where he oversaw the development of Google first self-driving car.

After leaving Waymo in January of 2016 he co-founded Otto, the autonomous trucking company. Uber purchased Otto for $680 million in the summer of 2016 and hired Levandowski to lead its own self-driving car development.  

Levandowski was accused of stealing intellectual property that Uber allegedly used to jumpstart its own self-driving program, which led to the lawsuit. Although he was not named as a defendant in the suit, he was accused of conspiring with Travis Kalanick, who was then Uber's CEO, to steal thousands of proprietary files related to Lidar technology that helps driverless cars see their surroundings. Uber denied any wrongdoing.

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Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, left, and Anthony Levandowski, co-founder of Otto

Uber fired Levandowski in May 2017 for failing to cooperate with the investigation into the IP theft. Uber and Waymo eventually settled the lawsuit for $245 million in February 2018.

Waymo is looking to recoup incentive payments Levandowski collected from the search giant before he defected to Uber. He is fighting Google's claims that he breached his contract as one of the leaders of its autonomous vehicle unit, now called Waymo, by recruiting from its ranks for his new startup company, Otto. Levandowski had been paid $120 million by Waymo, the court documents showed. Waymo has called the payments "unjust enrichment."

The case is in private arbitration, behind closed doors and out of the public eye. Regardless, the case as put Uber back in the spotlight as its new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is trying to remake Uber's tarnished image. That's because as part of its deal to acquire Otto, Uber agreed to provide Levandowski legal cover, known as indemnification, for claims brought against him by Google.

Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment. Neel Chatterjee, a lawyer representing Levandowski in the arbitration, and Google also declined to comment.

Uber consolidated Otto's activities under its Advanced Technologies Group in April 2017 and retired the Otto name.


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