Anthony Levandowski allegedly stole intellectual property from Google, in collusion with Uber, to further their self-driving car development plans.
Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski after he asserted the 5th Amendment in the civil case brought by Google. Uber has, for some time now, been receiving endless bad press for multiple reasons. To many, this latest news comes as no surprise.
Allegedly, Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents from the Google server before resigning to take up a position with Uber. Forensic Security Engineer, Gary Brown, made a legal public declaration for the court revealing evidence that Levandowski had, in fact, pilfered the 9.7 gigabytes of information.
Levandowski raises suspicions
Colleagues of Levandowski at Waymo first became suspicious of his activities when he admitted he had liaised with an executive from Uber. He disclosed that the discussion had been about a collaboration to create a self-driving vehicle startup. It was only a couple of weeks later that his download activity was logged.
Additionally, further suspicious activity occurred in January of 2016 when he spoke to the same colleague admitting, confidentially, that he intended to replicate the autonomous driving technology for his new startup. Witnesses then claim to have seen him attend a meeting at the headquarters for Uber.
A day after this meeting, Levandowski launched Otto, a startup aimed at developing self-driving trucks. Just a week later he submitted his resignation, without reason, to Waymo. Interestingly, the lure to Uber he received, a restricted stock unit worth $250 million, was dated merely a day after his Waymo resignation date.
Even during his time with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car developers, Levandowski had openly, and secretly, co-founded other start-ups which dealt with the same technology. Initially, with his start-up 510 Systems, Google sought to take advantage and bought hardware from the company for use in its self-driving programs.
However, Levandowski’s co-ownership of Tyto was never disclosed to Google. Even when Google sought to acquire the company, Levandowski never told them about his association.
But what is Anthony Levandowski’s perspective?
Levandowski was one of the core developers in the early days of self-driving technology. While still at university, he took part in an autonomous driving competition run by the US Defense Research Agency. His team didn’t win, however, their entry into the competition, a self-driving motorcycle is an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum.
Perhaps he sees the technological intellectual property he took to Waymo as his own creation? Nevertheless, the nature of corporate rulership in our societies dictates that employees relinquish such information to the company when employed by a company. Additionally, many other engineers would have contributed to the stolen information belonging to Waymo.
Levandowski is persistently asserting the 5th amendment. In a civil lawsuit, such an act can incriminate. And Uber appear to be using him as a scapegoat to move the spotlight of guilt from their shoulders. Nevertheless, Uber fired Levandowski claiming he is preventing a straightforward investigation. Obviously, he has lost his $250 million stock unit as a result.
Uber is no stranger to scrutiny and notoriety. For a long time now it has been slammed in the press over accusations of sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace. All in all, it seems that Uber has some questionable business practices.
Initially set up as a car-sharing app, they sought to expand into the growing autonomous car market. However, their questionable business methods seem to be catching up with them. Only time will tell if they, and Anthony Levandowski, can survive this scandal. They literally appear to be at the mercy of Google’s goodwill.