Uber fires autonomous car researcher involved in lawsuit

Uber fires autonomous car researcher involved in lawsuit

The Uber engineer at the center of the company's litigation with Waymo, Anthony Levandowski, has been fired. Presumably, Levandowski was anxious that his cooperation might lead to criminal charges.

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed its authenticity. But when Levandowski was ordered by a federal judge to hand over evidence and testimony to that end, he asserted his Fifth Amendment rights, seeking to avoid possible criminal charges, according to his lawyers.

On May 19, Uber threatened to fire Levandowski unless he waived his constitutional right against self-incrimination so the ride-hailing service could comply with the court order. Uber has been unable to convince Levandowski to cooperate. He is the focus of a lawsuit against Uber by Alphabet as the Silicon Valley giants battle over technology that is expected to revolutionize the way people use cars. Uber has denied the accusations. It said that Levandowski was sacked for cause and that he has a contractual right to correct "deficiencies" within 20 days.

Uber last month named Eric Meyhofer to replace Levandowski as head of its Advanced Technologies Group.

Levandowski's short tenure with Uber began last July, after the San Francisco-based company acquired Otto-the self-driving truck startup he founded after leaving Google-for a reported $680 million.

The firing is the latest dramatic twist in a high-stakes court battle between Uber and Google's Waymo that is expected to shape the future of both companies' self-driving vehicle programs and the industry at large. That amount assumes certain targets would be met, and it was not clear how his firing would affect those payments.

That means firing Levandowski has an upside for Uber, Goldman said.




As a condition of his hiring, Levandowski was awarded more than $250 million in Uber stock. The company has acknowledged that his refusal to testify has hurt its defense efforts.

Any admission by Levandowski that he possesses Waymo documents could embroil him in even deeper legal trouble.

A telephone message was left Tuesday afternoon for Levandowski. A Wall Street Journal investigation found Mr. Levandowski ran side businesses throughout his nine years at Google, including some that sold technology to Google. But US District Court Judge William Alsup criticised the company, telling lawyers: "You keep on your payroll someone who took 14,000 documents and is liable to use them".

Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo told Levandowski in a letter filed in court by Levandowski's lawyers that he hasn't complied with Uber's requests to cooperate in obeying the judge's order to return the documents.

"What prevented him from bringing a laptop to work every day and consulting the files?"

Uber has been hit by a string of departures of senior executives and other negative news.

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