Uber fired the head of its self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski on Thursday. He has been accused of stealing trade secrets from Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, in 2014 when he left the company.
Levandowski contract with Uber was terminated after he failed to supply the court with information requested, according to The New York Times. Uber has been quick to confirm the removal and reaffirm that its self-driving division did not use stolen information from Waymo.
Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber a few months after the ride-sharing giant acquired Otto, the self-driving truck startup founded by Levandowski after he left Google.
It accuses Levandowski of stealing thousands of trade secrets, including proprietary data on Waymo’s Lidar system. In a court session, Waymo showed a timeline of events that claimed Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick and Levandowski discussed a possible acquisition before Otto left stealth, hinting at collusion between the company and Levandowski.
Probably doesn’t change much
Waymo has already filed a separate lawsuit against Levandowski, so the removal of the employee may do little to deter the Uber lawsuit. A few weeks ago, the company was denied a chance to settle the lawsuit in private arbitration.
A public trial may be the next step or Waymo may force Uber to settle on rough terms.
In the meantime, the judge may force Uber to halt its self-driving program, while the lawsuit is active. A preliminary injunction has already been filed and if Waymo were to win the lawsuit, it could call for a ban of the program indefinitely.
It is one of the most explosive trials in Silicon Valley and sure to scare off engineers that may be planning to make a similar gamble on a startup.