Art and design






Life and style








US news

World news

Uber threatens to fire former Google engineer over self-driving car spat with Waymo

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber.
Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, left. The firm’s general counsel threatened self-driving car lead engineer Anthony Levandowski with termination in latest move in court battle with Waymo. Photograph: Tony Avelar/AP

Uber has threatened to fire Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer at the centre of Uber’s court case with Alphabet’s Waymo, accused of stealing self-driving car trade secrets.

Waymo sued Uber alleging that Levandowski, one of the former engineers key to the development of Google’s self-driving cars, downloaded more than 14,000 confidential documents before leaving Waymo to start self-driving truck firm Otto, which was subsequently bought by Uber.

According to a court filing, Uber told Levandowski that he must comply with an order to return Waymo documents or face possible termination.

Uber general counsel, Salle Yoo, wrote in a letter to Levandowski: “If you do not agree to comply with all of the requirements set forth herein, or if you fail to comply in a material manner, then Uber will take adverse employment action against you, which may include termination of your employment.”

The case, which pits the two companies battling for dominance in the fast-growing field of self-driving cars, hinges on Waymo’s allegations that data taken by Levandowski made its way into a key sensor system for self-driving cars called Lidar.

Uber was issued with an injunction last week by US district judge William Alsup in San Francisco, ordering it to keep Levandowski away from work involving Lidar, which is used for range detection and environment scanning among other things. The injunction ordered Uber to prevent Levandowski and all other employees from using any Waymo materials and to return them to the Alphabet-owned company by 31 May.

Levandowski lawyers asked the judge to modify his order so that Uber is not required to fire the engineer if he asserts his constitutional rights against self-incrimination and refuses to produce documents. Waymo declined to comment and Uber did not respond to a request for comment.

Uber said it would appeal against a judge’s order rejecting its attempt to arbitrate Waymo’s trade secret claims, according to a court filing on Thursday. Alsup blocked Uber’s efforts to have the lawsuit heard in a private forum, ruling that it should continue to be litigated in San Francisco federal court.

Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and started Otto, a self-driving truck startup that Uber bought for $680m (£523m) in August. He ran Uber’s self-driving car division before stepping aside from those responsibilities pending the court case last month.

Uber has not denied that Levandowski took Waymo documents, but says it has not used any Waymo technology in its cars. In his injunction order, Alsup said “few” of Waymo’s alleged trade secrets have been traced to Uber’s self-driving car technology, and that Waymo’s patent claims against Uber have proved meritless.

This article titled "Uber threatens to fire former Google engineer over self-driving car spat with Waymo" was written by Samuel Gibbs, for on Friday 19 May 2017 10.18am


The great digital-age swindle… and the man fighting back

We are all – or nearly all – slaves to technology. Think about how many times you consult Google… Read more

WannaCry hackers still trying to revive attack says accidental hero

The “accidental hero” who registered a web address that became the so-called kill switch for… Read more

Revealed: Google tried to block media coverage of gender discrimination case

Google has tried to restrict reporting on a high-stakes gender discrimination case brought by the… Read more

Ransomware attack hero condemns 'super-invasive' tabloids

He inadvertently halted the global spread of the international ransomware attack and will donate… Read more

Destiny 2: how a fresh start let Bungie make its biggest game yet

Destiny 2, the first true sequel to Bungie’s 2014 massively multiplayer online first person… Read more

Google is killing off Android's emoji blobs

The best emojis on the market are no more: Google’s weird blobs are being retired in favour of more… Read more

How to be a vlogger: a guide for wannabe YouTubers

A survey of 1,000 children has revealed that three-quarters would consider a career in vlogging.… Read more

Games reviews roundup: Akiba’s Beat; Dawn of War III; Syberia 3

Akiba’s Beat PS4, PSVita, Pqube, cert: 12 ★★ The third entry in Acquire’s Akiba series returns to… Read more

Hiding in plain sight: how the 'alt-right' is weaponizing irony to spread fascism

Earlier this month, hundreds of “alt-right” protesters occupied the rotunda at Boston Common in the… Read more