Anthony Levandowski, An Engineer in the Storm

Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and one of the founding members of Google’s self-driving car project known as Waymo, was charged with theft of trade secrets as working at Google, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The indictment was unsealed on Aug 26th, 2019.

Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and extra punishment if convinced. 10 years ago, Google started “Project Chauffeur” and now Waymo. Anthony worked on the project from the beginning until he resigned from Google on Jan 27th, 2016.

Anthony Levandowski [right, pink shirt] and the first Chauffeur car on Jan 20, 2009, at the Shoreline parking lot. [2]

The indictment alleges that Levandowski densely downloaded numerous classified files from Google’s servers before his departure. Those files are related to Google’s LiDAR and self-driving car technology. Levandowski founded two companies, Tyto LiDAR LLC and Ottomotto LLC, which use these technologies when he was still in Google. Later on, Uber Technologies, Inc, acquired Ottomotto LLC. Levandowski soon took the leadership of Uber’s self-driving car development. [3]

In February 2017, Waymo already sued Uber for trade secret theft. Waymo noticed the development of Uber’s self-driving car in a very short time frame. Waymo alleged Levandowski used confidential information to help develop Uber’s self-driving car technology as Otto was acquired in 2016. This suit ended as Uber paid to Waymo a settlement of 0.34% of Uber equity, which was about $245 million in Feb 2018. [4]

In this case, Levandowski asserted his Fifth Amendment rights to stand on the court. As this lawsuit was going on, Levandowski was fired from Uber in May 2017. At that moment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI were not involved. However, they decided to take action now.

[1] Former Uber Self-Driving Car Executive Indicted For Alleged Theft Of Trade Secrets From Google
[2] https://twitter.com/waymo/status/1085237735588126721
[3] Uber’s First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month
[4] Uber and Waymo Abruptly Settle For $245 Million

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