Autonomous Car Researcher Fired by Uber

Uber has followed through on threats to fire star autonomous-car researcher Anthony Levandowski, whose hiring touched off a bitter trade-secrets fight with Waymo, the former self-driving car arm of Google.

Waymo has alleged that Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents containing its trade secrets before he left the company to found a startup that was later purchased by Uber. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered Uber to return the documents and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco for possible criminal investigation.

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.

“Your failure impeded Uber’s internal investigation and defense of the lawsuit,” the letter, dated Friday, stated. It said that Levandowski was fired for cause and that he has a contractual right to correct “deficiencies” within 20 days.

A telephone message was left Tuesday afternoon for Levandowski. His lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco-based Uber appears to be blaming the stolen documents solely on Levandowski in an effort to defend itself against Waymo’s lawsuit.

The company’s letter to Levandowski states that he “represented and warranted” in his employment agreement that he has returned or destroyed all property and confidential information from any previous employer.

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. Levandowski has asserted his rights under the Fifth Amendment since Waymo filed its lawsuit in February.

In documents posted Tuesday, Levandowski’s lawyers said Alsup’s order “has thus placed Mr. Levandowski on the horns of an unconstitutional dilemma: either he must waive his Fifth Amendment rights and provide the information and materials specified…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

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