Uber Threatens to Fire Engineer Embroiled in Google Lawsuit

GettyImages  AP Files These file images show the Lyft and Waymo logos

GettyImages AP Files These file images show the Lyft and Waymo logos

Despite the allegations against him, Levandowski's job at Uber has been protected so far by his reputation as a rising star in the self-driving industry and his close friendship with CEO Travis Kalanick, who called Levandowski his brother from another mother. He also formerly barred Levandowski from working on Uber's lidar, which is the laser technology used in self-driving cars that Levandowski helped pioneer at Google. "Just as important, Anthony is a prolific entrepreneur with a real sense of urgency".

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.

In a strongly worded letter to Levandowski, Uber's head of legal, Salle Yoo, said he needs to return any stolen files or testify under oath that he never took them.

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Waymo's decision to file its trade-secrets case against Uber in court "was not only reasonable but also the only course available", because Waymo has no arbitration agreement with Uber, Alsup wrote. By requiring Uber to demand the return of the documents, the judge is pressuring Uber to finally fire him. But Levandowski is refusing to let the devices that might contain the files be searched, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate himself. Alsup told Uber it should do "whatever it can" to ensure that the conditions of the order are met, even if that includes firing Levandowski. While Levandowski has not been sued, Uber has now made it clear that he is to either cooperating with the court's investigation or face "adverse employment action".

That is at the center of Waymo's case, which was filed in February and accuses Uber of misappropriating its trade secrets and infringing on patents related to its self-driving vehicle program. As Google's Waymo alleges in the lawsuit, on his way out Levandowski stole thousands of confidential documents related to self-driving auto technology.

The case revolves around Waymo's charges that Uber has acquired an advantage from the information Levandowski took. "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court's Order requires us to make these demands of you".

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Levandowski, who isn't a defendant in Waymo's lawsuit, argued in a court filing the court order forces him to choose between his Constitutional rights against self-incrimination or his job.

To date Levandowski has exercised his fifth amendment rights in order to avoid self incrimination but now Uber is demanding the engineer comply with the Judges order.

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