Wednesday, 28 June, 2017

Uber fires autonomous car researcher involved in lawsuit

LinkedIn LinkedIn
Clarence Schmidt | 31 May, 2017, 06:00

Levandowski's former employer, Alphabet's Waymo self-driving division, has accused him of stealing trade secrets and downloading more than 14,000 documents before he left. The lawsuit also claims that Uber's self-driving cars use LiDAR that is directly copied from Waymo's technology.

When Google's self-driving vehicle unit Waymo filed a blockbuster lawsuit against Uber earlier this year, the tech giant singled out the actions of one Google-turned-Uber engineer whom it said stole thousands of confidential documents: Anthony Levandowski.

Uber had been standing by Levandowski's right to use his Fifth Amendment protections until Alsup issued the decision requiring the company to return any documents belonging to Waymo by May 31. Uber denies these claims. 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.

Last month, Uber named Eric Meyhofer to replace Levandowski as head of its Advanced Technologies Group.

Uber had been asking Levandowski to assist with the internal investigation for months, according to a company spokesperson.

The New York Times was the first to report the news.

"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 Padilla, Uber's associate general counsel for employment and litigation, wrote in an email to employees, cited by the Times.

In Levandowski's termination letter, which was included in a court filing and is dated 26 May, Uber general counsel Salle Yoo cited Levandowski's failure to comply with the court order as the cause of his firing.

As a condition of his hiring, Levandowski was awarded more than $250 million in Uber stock.

But Uber has also refused to share several thousand additional documents with the court, citing confidentiality rules between attorneys and their clients.

On May 19, Uber threatened to fire Levandowski unless he waived his constitutional right against self-incrimination so the ride-hailing service could comply with the court order.

"What prevented him from bringing a laptop to work every day and consulting the files?"

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