Uber threatens to fire key exec in self-driving car dispute

Uber threatens to fire key exec in self-driving car dispute

Uber threatens to fire key exec in self-driving car dispute

The lead lawyer for Uber has threatened to fire Anthony Levandowski, one of the company's top self-driving auto engineers, if he refuses to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into accusations that he stole trade secrets from Waymo, the autonomous vehicle division of Google's parent company Alphabet. As Google's Waymo alleges in the lawsuit, on his way out Levandowski stole thousands of confidential documents related to self-driving vehicle technology. Judge William Alsup, who is hearing Waymo's suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, mandated the return of the files. "Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads, not through unlawful actions", Waymo spokesman Johnny Luu said.

Levandowski asserted his Fifth amendment rights earlier this year seeking to protect himself if the case becomes criminal - which is now a possibility. Then later this week, Uber's general counsel, Salle Yoo, sent Levandowski a letter, the New York Times reports.

Uber hailed the arrival of Otto founder Anthony Levandowski. In a sternly worded letter on May 15, the company demanded Levandowski hand over thousands of files he has been accused of stealing from his former employer, Waymo, and provide a detailed accounting of anyone he ever shared or discussed those files with.

This week also saw Levandowski prohibited from working on Lidar technology in a preliminary injunction, as opposed to halting Uber from working on the technology altogether.

For those unfamiliar with the whole matter, Anthony Levandowski is an engineer who worked at Google at one point, then left the company to co-found a startup called Otto, which Uber later acquired for almost $700 million.

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The letter requires Levandowski to waive his right not to testify against himself, as well as his attorney-client privilege.

Levandowski fought back Thursday night, filing a motion that asks the court to modify its order. Should he fail to comply, termination of employment is likely the next step Uber will take in this matter.

The letter from Yoo reads: "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the court's order requires us to make these demands of you".

"It is an act by the judicial branch of our federal government compelling an individual to choose between preserving his livelihood and preserving his constitutional rights", Levandowski's lawyers wrote.

Uber has called Waymo's claims "baseless" and argues that its technology is "fundamentally different" from Waymo's. Alsup has also referred the matter to the USA attorney, a "rare if not unprecedented" step that could lead to criminal charges or even jail time for Uber executives.

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