A former Google engineer has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing trade secrets before joining Uber's effort to build robotic vehicles for its ride-hailing service. The sentence handed down Tuesday by U.S. District Judge William Alsup came more than four months after former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski reached a plea agreement with the federal prosecutors who brought a criminal case against him last August. Levandowski, who helped steer Google's self-driving car project before landing at Uber, was also ordered to pay more than $850,000. Alsup had taken the unusual step of recommending the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into Levandowski while presiding over a high-profile civil trial between Uber and Waymo, a spinoff from a self-driving car project that Google began in 2007 after hiring Levandowski to be part of its team. Levandowski eventually became disillusioned with Google and left the company in early 2016 to start his own self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber eventually bought for $680 million. He wound up pleading guilty to one count, culminating in Tuesday's sentencing.
A lawsuit by Waymo, alleging the use by rival Uber Technologies of stolen trade secrets relating to autonomous vehicle technology, has been referred by a federal judge to a U.S. attorney, raising the possibility of a criminal prosecution. "This case is referred to the United States Attorney for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets based on the evidentiary record supplied thus far concerning plaintiff Waymo LLC's claims for trade secret misappropriation," wrote Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California late Thursday. "The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney," Judge Alsup added. In another order, the Judge also rejected Uber's motion that most of the claims of the lawsuit should be settled through arbitration, a process that is usually conducted in private, and is cheaper and faster than a federal lawsuit. The dispute in the autonomous vehicle technology market reflects the stiff competition to get driverless vehicles in the hands of consumers.
Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the ex-Google engineer at the centre of a major self driving lawsuit. Uber announced the firing of its vice president of technology in an internal email to employees today, and has maintained that its self-driving technology did not copy Google's earlier work. It wanted Levandowski to cooperate in order to help with the case, but the engineer cited his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid possible incrimination. High-profile: Levandowski, a'swaggering' six-foot-seven tech leader, is one of Silicon Valley's most significant figures in the development of self-driving cars In lidar -- or light detection and ranging -- scanning, one or more lasers sends out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle, whether clouds, leaves or rocks. In self-driving cars, the sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas looking for information and acting as the'eyes' of the car.
Uber's chief of human resources, Liane Hornsey, tells USA TODAY a 200-session listening tour of the company after allegations of pervasive sexism found employees concerned about pay and performance reviews, but not sexual harassment. In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber's self-driving program, speaks about their driverless car in San Francisco. SAN FRANCISCO -- Anthony Levandowski, the star engineer who once led Uber's ambitious self-driving project and a central figure in its contentious legal battle with Google's Waymo unit over trade secrets, has been fired. Uber spokesperson Chelsea Kohler confirmed to USA TODAY Tuesday that the ride-hailing company had severed its ties with Levandowski effectively immediately. The New York Times first reported on the firing.
Uber has denied conspiring with Anthony Levandowski to steal Waymo's self-driving tech in its latest court filing. According to Bloomberg and Reuters, Uber refuted Waymo's accusation that it colluded with Levandowski to steal 14,000 files before the engineer left Google's former autonomous car division in 2015. The company vehemently denied that it hired him on the condition that he brings those files with him, or that it even knew about about the theft at all. Alphabet, Waymo's parent corporation, believes those files include the secrets of its self-driving system, including its LiDAR technology that serves as its autonomous car's eyes to see the road, obstacles and pedestrians. Those files are now the center of its lawsuit against the embattled company, which recently lost its CEO following a succession of scandals.