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The Head of Uber ATG Steps Down Amid Waymo Lawsuit

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【Summary】As the legal battle escalates between Waymo and Uber over the alleged theft of intellectual property, one of the individuals accused of stealing it has stepped down from his current role at Uber.

Original Eric Walz    Apr 28, 2017 12:13 PM PT
The Head of Uber ATG Steps Down Amid Waymo Lawsuit

By Eric Walz

As the legal battle escalates between Waymo and Uber over the alleged theft of intellectual property, one of the individuals accused of stealing it has stepped down from his current role at Uber. The head of Uber's Advanced Technology Group, Anthony Levandowski, has stepped down, and has been reassigned to a subordinate role at the company.

Levandowski was in charge of Uber's autonomous driving development, known as Uber ATG. This division is working on self-driving technology, LiDAR, and other projects. LiDAR is used for self-driving cars to "see" the environment around the vehicle, in order to safely navigate on the road.

Anthony Levandowski has distanced himself from future LiDAR development at Uber

In an email sent to employees, Mr. Levandowski wrote, "Going forward, please make sure not to include me in meetings or email threads related to LiDAR, or ask me for advice on the topic."

Waymo's Lawsuit against Uber

Waymo recently sued Uber over the alleged theft of over 14,000 documents by Levandowski from a secure company server at Google containing engineering documents and schematics related to LiDAR development.

In a statement released by Waymo regarding the Uber lawsuit, the company wrote "Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions."

In a sworn testimony in federal court, Waymo forensic security engineer Gary Brown stated that Anthony Levandowski, as well as two others, downloaded over 14,000 files, or approximately 9.6 GB worth of intellectual property to personal devices.

Mr. Levandoski once worked for Google on its own self-driving car program, and the alleged thefts occurred while he was still an employee. After he left the company he formed Otto, a company working on self-driving trucks with other ex-Google employees, with whom he worked.

Uber purchased Otto for $680 million in 2016, less than a year after the company formed. In addition to the lawsuit, Waymo is seeking a court injunction, which will halt Uber from using any LiDAR designs it may have copied from Google.

Other Uber ATG Employees Leave the Company

Levandowski's reassignment follows the departure of several key members of Uber's autonomous driving team. Recently Uber lost Brett Browning, head of Uber ATG's mapping team, Drew Bagnell, head of the autonomy and perception team, and Marcos Campos, head of applied machine learning, all within the past several months.

In March, Jeff Jones the president of Uber left the company over cultural differences. "It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business," he wrote in a statement regarding his departure.

The Self-Driving Car Race

Uber is facing fierce competition in the race to development self-driving cars. This week, Waymo launched its "early rider" program in Phoenix, Arizona where the public is invited to summon one of the company's planned 500 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans for any of their daily transportation needs around the Phoenix metro area. Uber is currently testing self-driving vehicles in the city as well.

In California, a total of thirty automotive and technology companies have applied for a DMV permit to test self-driving vehicles on public roads in the state, including Uber and Waymo.

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