Uber fires Anthony Levandowski amid self-driving tech lawsuit with Waymo

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Uber on Tuesday announced the immediate firing of Anthony Levandowski, one of the leaders of its self-driving car efforts, amid a lawsuit accusing it of using data allegedly stolen from Alphabet's Waymo unit.




"Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently," wrote Angela Padilla, Uber's associate general counsel for employment and litigation, in a memo to workers obtained by the New York Times. "Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to the facts and ultimately helping to prove our case."

Waymo -- previously a division within Google -- has accused Levandowski of taking 14,000 files with him before founding the self-driving truck company Otto, which was bought by Uber a few months later. Uber hasn't denied that Levandowski took the files, but does claim to have never used them or had them in its possession.

Levandowski has remained silent, refusing to cooperate with either Uber or a federal judge, choosing instead to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.

Prior to being fired, the engineer had already been sidelined, taken off work on LiDAR technology first by Uber and then a court injunction. The company is also facing a possible criminal investigation, which likely increased the pressure to distance itself from Levandowski.

The situation could benefit Uber's main U.S. rival, Lyft, which has partnered with both General Motors and Waymo on self-driving projects.

Apple's own self-driving efforts have been largely kept in the dark. The company has started public testing using modified Lexus RX450h SUVs, but it remains unknown if the company intends to partner with an existing automaker or design its own vehicle. That decision could happen by the end of 2017.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,262member

    I just curious why it took them so long, but he probably had contract so it took lots of negotiation and getting lawyers involved, But this firing will black list him in the Valley, that is for sure.

  • Reply 2 of 14
    bkkcanuckbkkcanuck Posts: 811member
    maestro64 said:

    I just curious why it took them so long, but he probably had contract so it took lots of negotiation and getting lawyers involved, But this firing will black list him in the Valley, that is for sure.

    Probably because they are caught in a problematic situation that he did not do this on his own.  They will have to come up with a generous package (and not sue him) or they might find Uber's black hand behind the whole scheme. (IMHO)
    baconstang
  • Reply 3 of 14
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 504member
    Wow! Uber doing the right thing for a change?
    cali
  • Reply 4 of 14
    Wow! Uber doing the right thing for a change?
    Purely coincidental. 
    calibaconstanganton zuykov
  • Reply 5 of 14
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,754member
    Uber is massively in trouble and they know it.
    Would not be surprised if its bought out, or at least the whole management is forced to resign soon. Their PR is nearly 100% bad!
  • Reply 6 of 14
    shapetablesshapetables Posts: 201member
    I hear they're going to focus on self-driving boats from now on, complete with a Gawd mode, Heyall app and all the rest. He has saved countless lives by getting drunks, potheads and junkies off the road and didn't deserve to see his parents go down like that, but I'll never trust him.
  • Reply 7 of 14
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 2,944member


    Levandowski has remained silent, refusing to cooperate with either Uber or a federal judge, choosing instead to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.


    Would it be overly cynical of me if I felt his decision to invoke The Fifth implied guilt?

    Not completely true, not completely false, so think about what you want to say.

  • Reply 8 of 14
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 211member
    Lame, always looking for someone to blame.
  • Reply 9 of 14
    I wonder if they'll try to recover some of the $700M they paid him or if they know going to court would reveal their own wrong doing. If they don't, Google should consider taking him to court. They at least have an estimate of what the IP was worth based on the fact that besides a few trucks, Otto had no other assets I'd guess.
  • Reply 10 of 14
    macarenamacarena Posts: 348member
    Uber has been attracting bad karma literally by the day. And when a company is looking to disrupt entire industries, bad karma is the last thing they need.

    This is going to end quite ugly for Uber - not only will their name get tarnished, they will likely get injuncted from participating in a critical part of their future.
  • Reply 11 of 14
    surely Google's beef should be with Levandowski personally, it sounds like he stole data, used it to build a new company then sold that new company for millions. That's where the criminality ends for me, regardless if Uber knew about stolen files or not, technically they were 'conned' as well, buying something that was stolen. If I buy a stolen car from someone, I don't get prosecuted; the car gets taken away and the guy who sold it gets prosecuted.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,273member
    adm1 said:
    surely Google's beef should be with Levandowski personally, it sounds like he stole data, used it to build a new company then sold that new company for millions. That's where the criminality ends for me, regardless if Uber knew about stolen files or not, technically they were 'conned' as well, buying something that was stolen. If I buy a stolen car from someone, I don't get prosecuted; the car gets taken away and the guy who sold it gets prosecuted.
    ...except if you suggest to someone that if they steal a car you'd buy it from them.  ;)
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 13 of 14
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,772member
    Im not buying the accusations. I feel like they haven't been proven. Google and all these tech companies regularly poach talent from competitors as a result of the projects an individual was working on. Google just doesn't like that they didn't have the upper hand in this situation and set out to stop the competition at all costs even if it meant ruining an individual's career.  

    They haven't proven that anyone stole anything from them in as court with a trial etc. I want to hear all the dirt as I suspect Google doesn't have clean hands. As much as IP as they've stolen from other companies I don't think they should be trusted or that competitors shouldn't be allowed to play in the same dirt box as Google.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,273member
    adonissmu said:
    Im not buying the accusations. I feel like they haven't been proven. Google and all these tech companies regularly poach talent from competitors as a result of the projects an individual was working on. Google just doesn't like that they didn't have the upper hand in this situation and set out to stop the competition at all costs even if it meant ruining an individual's career.  

    They haven't proven that anyone stole anything from them in as court with a trial etc. I want to hear all the dirt as I suspect Google doesn't have clean hands. As much as IP as they've stolen from other companies I don't think they should be trusted or that competitors shouldn't be allowed to play in the same dirt box as Google.
    you haven't read the Judge's comments then: 
    “You have one of the strongest records I’ve seen in a long time of someone doing something bad, so good for you," Alsup told Waymo’s lawyers

    If there was no strong credible evidence he wouldn't have issued an injunction. Nor would he have sent the case files to Federal Prosecutors for potentially an additional CRIMINAL investigation on top of this civil one. 
    edited June 2017
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