A former Google engineer was charged Tuesday with stealing closely guarded secrets that he later sold to Uber as the ride-hailing service scrambled to catch up in the high-stakes race to build robotic vehicles.
Levandowski was accused of stealing years of top-secret information from Google, which prosecutors called the crown jewels of the company. That included Google’s breakthroughs in LIDAR, a key piece of technology that enables self-driving cars to detect what’s around them.
In a statement, Levandowski’s attorneys maintained his innocence.
“He didn’t steal anything, from anyone,” the statement said. “This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year.”
Prosecutors say Levandowski turned himself in earlier Tuesday.
During the Waymo trial, Kalanick conceded that Uber needed to develop self-driving cars to survive. But he denied that he ever resorted to stealing technology from Google, whom he believed was an ally until he began to suspect the company intended to launch its own ride-hailing service consisting entirely of its robotic vehicles.
But Kalanick also testified that his push to build a fleet of self-driving cars for Uber led him to woo Levandowski, who at the time was considered to be a pioneer in robotic vehicles. The two men began talking in 2015 before Levandowski left Google. After he left, Uber paid $680 million in 2016 to acquire Otto, a self-driving truck startup founded by Levandowski and another former Google employee, Lior Ron.
Waymo, which spun off from Google in 2016, alleged that Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents containing its trade secrets before he left the company to found Otto. Uber denied knowing anything about those documents, but eventually fired him after he repeatedly asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination leading up to the trial…Continue Reading