Uber has fired one of their top engineers who has been in the public eye for the past few months surrounding an intense nationwide lawsuit.
Anthony Levandowski was the head engineer behind Uber’s emerging self-driving vehicle technology. He is the reason behind a lawsuit filed by Google’s own self-driving car company, Waymo, against Uber over stolen information and secretive business practices.
Waymo’s lawsuit alleges that Levandowski, who used to be an employee of Google, stole confidential and intellectual property from their own self-driving technology. Levandowski left Google to create his own company, Otto, which was later acquired by Uber for almost $700 billion, The New York Times reports.
As a part of their lawsuit, Waymo stated that Levandowski illegally downloaded 14,000 proprietary files of confidential information surrounding their self-driving engineering plans. According to the court documents, these files were related to technology such as circuit boards that mount on the autonomous vehicles and are “laser-based scanning and mapping technology that uses the reflection of laser beams off objects to create a real-time 3D image of the world,” as reported on Geek Wire.
Circuit board technology is a growing industry, especially in the field of self-driving cars. This may be due to their versatility in fabrication, as there are a variety of soldering techniques available to attach components that can differ especially for high volume processes. But for these specific cars, their high volume production is completed with an SMT placement machine and a bulk wave soldering oven.
Along with these allegations, Waymo asserted that many other Google engineers followed Levandowski’s lead and downloaded additional information such as supplier lists and manufacturing details. These engineers then left Google to join Levandowski at Otto.
As a response to the lawsuit, Uber pushed Levandowski to comply with the investigation. However, back in March, he controversially used his Fifth Amendment right in order to avoid a federal judge’s demand to hand over his evidence in the case.
Citing that he had missed a key deadline in the lawsuit, Uber officially terminated Levandowski earlier this month. Despite Levandowski’s termination, Uber still cites innocence in Waymo’s accusations that they knew Levandowski stole information.
In a statement, Uber said the lawsuit was “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”
As of the time of publication, Levandowski has not made a public statement in response to his termination.