Uber Fires Engineer Accused of Stealing Self-Driving Secrets From Waymo

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In the ongoing legal battle between Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo, Uber announced this week that it has fired Anthony Levandowski, the engineer accused of stealing Waymo's self-driving intellectual property when he left his job at Google to start his own company, Otto (via The New York Times). In the original lawsuit, Waymo claimed that when Uber acquired Otto, Levandowski's stolen trade secrets came with the purchase, mainly centering around Waymo's LiDAR system.

In the months following Waymo's filing, Uber denied the accusations and "pressured Mr. Levandowski to cooperate" with the court. When he was ordered by a federal judge to give the court any evidence related to Waymo's accusations, as well as a testimony, he was said to have asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in order to avoid self-incrimination. The judge gave Levandowski an internal deadline to hand over the evidence in question, and when he missed it Uber decided to fire him.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (left) and former employee Anthony Levandowski (right)

According to legal analysts watching the case, if Levandowski continued to be employed by Uber, "the company risked being tarnished...as if it were indirectly condoning his actions."

“Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently,” Angela L. Padilla, Uber’s associate general counsel for employment and litigation, wrote in an email to employees. “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.”

She added: “We take our obligations under the court order very seriously, and so we have chosen to terminate his employment at Uber.”

When the lawsuit was filed in February, Levandowski and "other former Waymo employees" were accused of stealing around 14,000 confidential Waymo files that included data on Waymo's laser-based radar (LiDAR) system, which the company called "one of the most powerful parts" of its self-driving technology. Federal prosecutors began investigating the case earlier in May, while also partially granting Waymo's request for an injunction against Uber's self-driving efforts as the case continues.

Besides Waymo's lawsuit, Uber has also faced troubled waters this year when the Department of Justice began investigating the ride-hailing company over its use of "greyball" software that let drivers operate in places where the Uber app is restricted.

It also came out this year that Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened to remove Uber from the iOS App Store in 2015 after discovering that Uber was secretly "fingerprinting" iPhones that used the app. Uber said the decision was made to prevent fraud, making sure users could no longer create multiple fake accounts on one device to collect new account bonuses, despite knowing that its method was in direct violation of Apple's app privacy guidelines.

Although Uber's self-driving future is uncertain, Waymo has made progress in recent months with the launch of an autonomous car program in Phoenix, as well as the announcement of a partnership with Lyft that plans "to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream."

Tags: Google, Uber, Waymo

Top Rated Comments

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44 months ago

Is this a Mac rumor?

MacRumors is evolving into a forum full of haters so they've had to expand their scope to include other targets of vitriol, thus Uber has become a regular feature.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
The iPhone is where a majority of Apple's revenues come from and iPhones have been discussed here for quite some time. The forum topics for one show that the site has expanded beyond simply reporting on Mac rumors. People want to know about other things Apple and Apple-related. It didn't make sense to change the URL because they already had name recognition and an established base of users.

This story is related to Apple because Apple is said to be developing their own self-driving cars, or at least the software to run them. The Uber app also runs on iPhones, and there have been the recent revelations about the greyball software and the Uber software fingerprinting iPhones, but of which are of interest to both drivers and riders of Uber.

I am at the point where I think everyone who complains about articles not being a "Mac" "Rumor" have absolutely nothing better to do and instead come here to troll and encourage others to hate on the site. If you want to complain, remind yourself that nobody is forcing you to be here and you are free to go start your own site that only covers Mac Rumors. MacintoshRumors.com is available.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
Is this a Mac rumor?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
Uber is actual cancer in corporate form.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago

Uber is being assaulted from multiple directions. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of covfefe. Trav and company deserve everything they're getting.

They say that a lot of criminals are dumb, these two seem right up there.

Perhaps the most compelling circumstantial evidence that Waymo presented to judge Alsup was a document showing 5,309,445 shares of restricted Uber stock, awarded to Levandowski with a vesting date of January 28, 2017 -- the day after Levandowski quit his job at Google to form his own self-driving car company, Otto. The value of those shares at the time, Waymo's attorneys said, was roughly $250 million, based on valuations of the privately held Uber. Waymo's lawyers contend the timing of the arrangement shows that Uber was paying Levandowski before he began working for the company. "The very next day, he’s awarded stock by Uber, when he’s supposedly starting his own company and building his own technology," Verhoeven said. "What’s really going on is he’s secretly working for Uber."

Uber have caught up with Waymo in a few months, what has happened is beyond obvious. Levandowski has taken the fifth and Uber are blocking the release of documents.

I hope they get nailed to the wall for it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
Uber got ripped off in china and all the details taken from it, who's fired for this?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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