Former Star Google and Uber Engineer Charged With Theft of Trade Secrets

Former Star Google and Uber Engineer Charged With Theft of Trade Secrets

Four days into the trial, Uber and Waymo settled, with Uber agreeing to provide 0.34 percent of its stock to Alphabet, the parent company of Waymo and Google. But Mr. Levandowski’s situation was not resolved by the settlement. The federal judge in the case referred it to the United States Attorney’s Office for a possible criminal inquiry into Mr. Levandowski’s behavior.

Mr. Levandowski was a pioneer in autonomous-vehicle research. He became known for the technology as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004, when he designed a self-driving motorcycle that was entered in the Pentagon’s first contest for autonomous vehicles.

At Google, which Mr. Levandowski joined last decade, he was a confidant of Larry Page, one of the company’s co-founders. Mr. Levandowski ended up leading many aspects of the self-driving program inside the company’s clandestine “Google X” division. Google’s self-driving car unit was later spun off into Waymo.

In 2016, Mr. Levandowski left Google to form Otto, a self-driving trucking start-up. He took a small army of Google engineers along with him. Otto was quickly acquired by Uber for nearly $700 million. The deal was driven by Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive at the time, who had a vision of building a fleet of self-driving robotaxis that would replace Uber’s hundreds of thousands of human drivers.

In 2017, Waymo sued Uber, Mr. Levandowski and Otto for theft of trade secrets.

“Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time and expense of independently developing their own technology,” Waymo said in its suit.

The relationship between Uber and Mr. Levandowski quickly went south. After invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in the Waymo case, Mr. Levandowski was terminated by Uber in May 2017.

“Uber regrets ever bringing Anthony Levandowski on board,” one of Uber’s lawyers said during the trial last year. “All Uber has to show for Anthony Levandowski is this lawsuit.”

Mr. Levandowski, who made millions of dollars from his work and through sales of his start-ups, has not stepped back. In December, he gave an interview to The Guardian about his new self-driving start-up, Pronto.AI, in which he claimed that he built a car that had driven from San Francisco to New York without human intervention.

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