Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Uber fires Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski over Waymo dispute

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left and Anthony Levandowski co-founder of Otto pose for Uber fires executive accused of stealing Google's self-driving car secrets
Carlton Santiago | 31 May, 2017, 06:14

Uber Technologies Inc said on Tuesday it fired the technology whiz it had hired to lead its self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, after he failed to comply with a court order to hand over documents at the center of a legal dispute between Uber and Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit. He joined Uber as the head of its driverless-car program a year ago after selling his startup to Uber for $680 million.

The letter also revealed that Uber required Levandowski to have "returned or destroyed all property and confidential information belonging to any prior employer" as a condition of his employment. Uber has denied the accusations. Levandowski did not comply with that request either.

According to the Washington Post, Levandowski's lawyers are expected to fight the termination on the grounds that it violates his Fifth Amendment rights. His attorneys initially said Mr. Levandowski wouldn't comment on the case because of the potential for criminal charges. Until now the company had defended and protected Levandowski, even as a district judge became increasingly frustrated with his decision to not turn over key documents.

Google's self-driving auto division, Waymo, sued Uber in February, claiming that Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files while he was a Google employee, including trade secrets. Levandowski has asserted his rights under the Fifth Amendment since Waymo filed its lawsuit in February.

A termination letter sent to Levandowski says that he was sacked "for cause" after he had been advised to cooperate fully with the court's requests. If you do not agree to comply with all of the requirements set forth herein, or if you fail to comply in a material manner, then Uber will take adverse employment action against you, which may include termination of your employment. Business Insider confirmed Levandowski's firing with the company.

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

Levandowski was a senior engineer in Waymo, the eight-year-old self-driving vehicle program launched by Alphabet, Google's parent company. The deal was reported to have a price tag of $680 million.

Earlier in May, a federal judge formally blocked Levandowski from all Lidar-related work at the company.


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